Nearly Three Dozen Trapped U.N. Peacekeepers Rescued Safely in Golan

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U.N. peacekeepers from the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force, also known as UNDOF, observe Syria's Quneitra province at an observation point on Mt. Bental in the Israeli-controlled Golan Heights, overlooking the border with Syria, Friday, Aug. 29, 2014. An armed group detained more than 40 U.N. peacekeepers during fighting in Syria early Thursday and over 80 peacekeepers are trapped, the United Nations said. The peacekeepers were detained on the Syrian side of the Golan Heights during a "period of increased fighting between armed elements and the Syrian Arab Armed Forces," the office of U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said in a statement. Ariel Schalit / AP

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About half of the U.N. peacekeepers from the Philippines who had been surrounded for days by Islamist militants on the Syrian side of the Golan Heights were safely rescued Saturday during a firefight, according to the United Nations. Thirty-two of the 72 Filipino troops whose movements were "restricted" at their posts have been extricated, the U.N. said in a statement. The U.N. said another peacekeeper position was under fire, but did not say if the remaining 40 "restricted" Filipino troops were based there. The two positions are within three miles of each other, according to a U.N. Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) deployment map.

U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon condemned the movements by the rebels and “the continuing detention and restrictions of movement on 84 UNDOF peacekeepers from the Fijian and Philippine Battalions by armed non-state actors, including the Al Nusra Front,” according to his spokesman.

The U.N. said forces were "working towards the safe release" of 44 Fijian peacekeepers who were also detained by Syrian rebels in the Golan Heights. As of July 31, 1,223 peacekeepers from six countries — Fiji, India, Ireland, Nepal, Netherlands, and the Philippines — are serving with UNDOF to monitor peace in the Golan, which acts as an area of separation between Israel and Syria, according to the U.N.

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