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32 UN peacekeepers rescued from Golan militants

2014-08-30 19:43

Damascus - Thirty-two UN peacekeepers were rescued from Islamist militants who had fired on their post on the Syrian side of the Golan Heights on Saturday, the United Nations said.

Another group of UN soldiers - also from the Philippines - remained trapped by the Islamists who surrounded their positions on Thursday, and a gun battle was ongoing, the UN press office said.

The troops are part of UNDOF, a UN force that has monitored the disengagement zone between Israel and Syria since 1974, after the 1973 Arab-Israeli war.

A Reuters cameraman spotted 11 UN armoured vehicles returning to their base in Israeli-controlled territory about 12 hours after the peacekeepers came under fire at around 06:00 (04:00 GMT) on Saturday.

"All 32 Filipino personnel from this position have been extricated and are now safe," the United Nations press office said in a statement issued in New York.

The remaining troops, at a separate border post, were still under mortar and heavy machine gun fire, the statement said.

"The UN peacekeepers returned fire and prevented the attackers from entering the position," it said. Officials in the Philippines have said there were a total of 72 soldiers trapped in the area.

Another 44 UNDOF peacekeepers, from Fiji, were detained by militants 8km away from the Philippine troops on Thursday and remain missing.

UNDOF has 1 223 peacekeepers from six countries operating in the zone.

The Golan is a strategic plateau captured by Israel in the 1967 Middle East War, and Syria and Israel technically remain at war. UNDOF monitors the area of separation, a narrow strip of land running about 70km  from Mount Hermon on the Lebanese border to the Yarmouk River frontier with Jordan.

Reuters
Read more on:    un undof syria israel

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