Mar 6, 2013 / 12:08 pm
A group of armed fighters linked to the Syrian opposition detained more than 20 U.N. peacekeepers Wednesday in the increasingly volatile zone separating Israeli and Syrian troops on the Golan Heights.
The U.N. Security Council demanded their immediate and unconditional release.
The capture of the peacekeepers marked a new escalation in the spillover of Syria's civil war, now entering its third year. It followed the Feb. 25 announcement that a member of the peacekeeping force, known as UNDOF, was unaccounted for. The U.N. said the peacekeeping member, who has not been identified, is still missing.
Russia's U.N. Ambassador Vitaly Churkin, the current Security Council president, said talks are under way between U.N. officials from the peacekeeping force, known as UNDOF, and the captors.
U.N. peacekeeping chief Herve Ladsous, who briefed the council behind closed doors, identified the captors as being from a group associated with the Syrian armed opposition, Churkin said.
"There was no fighting, according to his briefing to us," Churkin said. "My understanding is that they took over the trucks in which the UNDOF personnel was moving around."
U.N. deputy spokesman Eduardo del Buey said about 20 U.N. observers were on a regular supply mission when they were stopped by approximately 30 armed fighters near an observation post that was damaged in heavy combat last weekend and had been evacuated.
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