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UN peacekeepers seized in Golan Heights for the second time this year

Four UN peacekeepers were seized on Tuesday in the so-called Area of Limitation, Golan Heights, between Syria and Israel.

Golan heights 2013 3 1Enlarge
A sign showing the different distances to Jerusalem, Baghdad, Damascus and other locations is seen at an army post in Mount Bental in the Golan Heights. (AFP/Getty Images)

Four United Nations peacekeepers were captured on Tuesday in the so-called Area of Limitation in the Golan Heights, between Syria and Israel, where forces from both countries cannot operate.

Reuters reported that Syrian rebel group Yarmouk Martyrs Brigade claimed responsibility for taking the group of Filipinos, saying it is holding the peacekeepers to keep them safe after clashes in the area put them in danger.

The rebels said they "carried out an operation to secure and protect elements of the United Nations operating in the Yarmouk Valley ... during clashes and heavy shelling in the region."

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The group reportedly announced that the four were with its members on its Facebook page along with a photo of those being held wearing light-blue UN flak jackets with "Philippines" written on them.

The peacekeepers were said to be monitoring the Area of Limitation when they were seized. They are a part of the disengagement observer force and have been in Golan Heights since 1973, when the Arab-Israeli war ended.

The United Nations on Tuesday demanded they be freed, issuing the following statement

"The Secretary-General strongly condemns the detention of four UNDOF peacekeepers by armed elements in the vicinity of Al Jamla, in the area of limitation and calls for their immediate release. The Secretary-General reminds all actors in Syria that UNDOF is mandated to monitor the Disengagement of Forces Agreement between Israel and Syria. The Secretary-General calls on all parties to respect UNDOF’s freedom of movement and safety and security."

The four were patrolling near the Al Jamlah area, the same place where Syrian rebels seized 21 other Filipino peacekeepers in March.

Extra armored personnel carriers, ambulances and other security equipment were sent to UN forces in Golan Heights after the March abductions.

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/middle-east/130507/un-peacekeepers-seized-golan-heights