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U.N. peacekeepers flee Syrian rebel captives

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Filipino troops from the U.N. peacekeeping force on the Syria-Israel border escaped from the Syrian rebels holding them captive.

The Filipino troops, part of the United Nations peacekeeping force monitoring the 1974 disengagement agreement between Syria and Israel following the 1973 war, escaped in the middle of Saturday night, Reuters reported.

The troops  from the U.N. Disengagement Observer Force “have relocated to an alternate site and are safe,” the United Nations said in a statement.

Meanwhile, 44 Fijian peacekeepers have been held captive since Thursday.

“At this time, no additional information on their status or location has been established,” according to a  U.N. statement. “The United Nations continues to actively seek their immediate and unconditional release.”

The statement said also that other observer force troops are on high alert and carrying out their duties.

Last week, the Philippines said it would recall its peacekeeping force of 331 at the end of its tour of duty in October due to the difficulty in securing the peacekeepers. In September 2013, 21 Filipino peacekeepers were kidnapped by Syrian rebels and released a week later.

The rebels and Syrian forces in Syria’s more than three-year civil war have been fighting near the border for control of the crossing. Several mortars and gunfire have hit Israeli territory; an Israeli military officer and a civilian were injured by the live fire. The Israel Defense Forces said it responded by striking two Syrian military positions in the Golan.

A rebel spokesman told The Associated Press on Thursday that they are focused on fighting Syrian President Bashar Assad and pose no threat to Israel.

 

 

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