A day after 43 United Nations peacekeepers were detained by Islamist rebels from the al-Nusra Front, 75 members of the same U.N. peacekeeping force near the border between Israel and Syria are reportedly engaged in a stand-off with the Syrian rebels. From the AFP:
Seventy-five Filipino members of a United Nations' peacekeeping force were defending two posts on the Syrian side of Golan Heights, and were prepared to fight back rather than surrender, their commander in Manila said. "We can use deadly force in defence of the UN facilities," Colonel Roberto Ancan told reporters. "I (would) just like to emphasise our troops are well-armed, they are well-trained, they are well-disciplined warrior peacekeepers."
The 1,000-strong peacekeeping force has maintained a presence in the Golan Heights for the past forty years ago since a ceasefire following the 1973 Yom Kippur War established the force's mandate.
However, with the three-year-old Syria Civil War raging, peacekeeping forces are increasingly been put in the line of sectarian fire between the disparate groups battling the regime of Bashar Assad as well as each other.
The fate of the 43 peacekeepers who were, depending on your interpretation, detained or kidnapped yesterday remains unclear. AFP, quoting Fijian Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama, said talks are underway to secure their release while Reuters reports that U.N. officials have been trying to locate the missing peacekeepers in Syria.
Previous episodes in which U.N. peacekeepers in Syria have ended with the relatively quick release of the members of the multi-national force. A source told Reuters, this scenario could be different:
But the situation appears to be more precarious this time. A militant close to the Nusra Front said the Fijians had been taken because they had been providing medical treatment to wounded soldiers from Assad's army.
Meanwhile, across the border, Israeli troops are keeping a close eye on the developments.