Syrian rebels capture 20 U.N. observers


(JTA) — Syrian rebels captured 20 U.N. officials stationed on the Golan Heights along the Israel-Syria border, the first time U.N. officials have been targeted in the Syrian civil war.

The members of the U.N. Disengagement Observer Force were reviewing damage at an observation post that had been evacuated over the weekend when they were captured and held by insurgents, The New York Times reported. A group called Martyrs of Yarmook claimed responsibility in a video posted on YouTube and demanded a withdrawal of Syrian government forces from the area.

The U.N. Security Council called for the release of the observers, Israel Radio reported.

Israel captured the Golan Heights from Syria in the 1967 Six-Day War. The U.N. observer force has monitored the Israeli-Syrian ceasefire there since it was brokered in 1974 by the United States, following the 1973 Yom Kippur War.

The border had remained largely peaceful since then, though recent weeks have seen a number of cross-border incidents as fighting between rebels and Syrian forces in the area have intensified.

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