Syrian rebels seize U.N. peacekeepers near Golan Heights

Wed Mar 6, 2013 4:30pm EST
 

By Oliver Holmes

BEIRUT (Reuters) - Syrian rebels have seized a convoy of U.N. peacekeepers near the Golan Heights and say they will hold them captive until President Bashar al-Assad's forces pull back from a rebel-held village which has seen heavy recent fighting.

The capture was announced in rebel videos posted on the Internet and confirmed on Wednesday by the United Nations, which said about 20 peacekeepers had been detained.

The seizure is the most direct threat to U.N. personnel in the nearly two-year-old uprising against Assad, and Human Rights Watch said it was investigating the same brigade for past executions.

It came on the day Britain said it would increase aid to the opposition forces and the Arab League gave a green light to member states to arm the rebels.

The Arab League also invited the opposition Syrian coalition to take Syria's seat at a meeting of the regional body in Doha later this month. Syria was suspended in November 2011 in response to its crackdown on protests which has since spiraled into civil war.

In the latest attack by the Syrian military, warplanes bombarded the northeastern provincial capital of Raqqa for a second consecutive day on Wednesday, killing at least 39 people, opposition activists said. Video footage showed fighters putting dismembered bodies in an ambulance.

The peacekeepers of the UNDOF mission have been monitoring a ceasefire line between Syria and the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights, captured by the Jewish state in a 1967 war, for nearly four decades.

Israel has warned that it will not "stand idle" as Syria's civil war spills over into the Golan region.   Continued...

 
A member of the Al Yarmouk Martyr brigade makes a statement in front of a white vehicle with 'UN' written on it at what said to be Jamla, Syria near Golan Heights on March 6, 2013 in this still image taken from video posted on social media website. Syrian rebels have seized a convoy of U.N. peacekeepers near the Golan Heights and say they will hold them captive until President Bashar al-Assad's forces pull back from a rebel-held village which has seen heavy recent fighting. The capture was announced in rebel videos posted on the Internet and confirmed on Wednesday by the United Nations in New York, which said about 20 peacekeepers had been detained. REUTERS/Social Media Website via Reuters TV