Conflict & Justice

Israeli army aids UN peacekeepers in leaving Golan Heights hostage zone


UN peacekeepers, including Filipinos, cross the Quneitra checkpoint between Israel and Syria in the Golan Heights on March 07, 2013. Syrian rebels kept 21 UN peacekeepers hostage on the Golan Heights despite world condemnation of the spillover of Syria's conflict onto the sensitive armistice line with Israel.



Israeli soldiers have reportedly helped United Nations peacekeepers out of the Golan Heights' cease-fire zone, where 21 peacekeepers were taken hostage by Syrian rebels on Wednesday. 

"Eight UNDOF soldiers were evacuated from a post located within the demilitarized zone in the Syrian Golan Heights," an Israeli Defense Force spokeswoman told Agence France-Presse

The 21 hostages are members of the UN Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF), which since 1974 has been monitoring the cease-fire zone between Syria and Israel on the Golan Heights.

For Israel, the idea that the UN mission, which has guarded the Syrian border since a 1973 truce, could cease to exist is very discomfiting, says Noga Tarnopolsky, GlobalPost's senior correspondent in Israel.

The Syrian rebels have said there are no current negotiations to release the hostages, nor do they plan on releasing them soon, Reuters reported.

The eight peacekeepers were ordered to evacuate the area by UNDOF over fears that more kidnappings of UN soldiers would occur, Ha'aretz reported. The eight soldiers were escorted by IDF forces, and are now at a UNDOF post near the Israeli territory of Quneitra. 

UNDOF has decreased the number of patrols in the Golan's ceasefire area, and may review its security plan there as well, an official said Thursday, according to AFP. 

More from GlobalPost: Talks begin to free 21 UN peacekeepers captured by Syrian rebels (VIDEO)