UN Peacekeepers Held Hostage in Syria
It is hard to believe that the situation in Syria could get any worse, but it has. According to the United Nations, 20 UN peacekeepers are being held in the Golan Heights area by 30 armed fighters.
Those being held are part of a peacekeeping contingency known as the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF). According to UN deputy spokesman Eduardo del Buey, the peacekeepers were stopped on their way to fulfill a regular supply mission run.
The group, who identifies themselves as the Martyrs of Yarmook, uploaded a video to YouTube claiming responsibility for the attack. The video demands that the Syrian government withdrawal from the town of Jamla. They have given the government 24 hours to respond, at which point they have threatened to treat the hostages as "prisoners." The rebels believe that the peacekeepers have been assisting the Syrian government.
UNDOF has monitored the area of Golan Heights since 1974, when a ceasefire was struck in the Yom Kippur War between Israel and a coalition of Arab states. Israel overtook the Golan Heights area from Syria in 1967, and Syria has retained its desire to have that land back in exchange for peace. Peacekeepers have monitored the area ever since.
This news comes as the UN warns of a full-scale disaster in Syria. According to the UN, nearly one million Syrians have become refugees. The one million refugees have fled to neighboring countries, putting an obvious strain on the resources of those governments.
"We are doing everything we can to help, but the international humanitarian response capacity is dangerously stretched. This tragedy has to be stopped,” says UN High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres.
The U.S. has faced criticism at home and abroad for not doing enough to stop the bloodshed in Syria.
Tensions between Israel and Syria have been increasing, with multiple shots being fired across the ceasefire line. Israel is worried about the conflict in Syria spilling over into their own territory. For their part, Israel has shelled positions held by the Syrian army across the ceasefire line.
The detention of these UN peacekeepers is unlikely to help ease tensions as the Syrian Civil War aims to mark its two year anniversary next week.