BEIRUT — Several United Nations peacekeepers who were abducted by Syrian rebels said in videos posted online Thursday that they are safe and being treated well, even as activists reported clashes and shelling in the tense border area with Israel where the Filipino troops were being held.
Opposition fighters detained 21 peacekeepers near the village of Jamlah in the Golan Heights on Wednesday — the first time U.N. troops have encountered trouble since they began patrolling an Israeli-Syrian armistice line dividing the plateau nearly 40 years ago, said Timor Goksel, a Beirut-based former United Nations official in the region.
One of the videos posted online shows three men dressed in camouflage and blue bullet-proof vests emblazoned with the U.N. and Philippines.
“We, the U.N. personnel here, are safe, and the Free Syrian Army are treating us good,” one of them says in English. “We cannot go home because the government of (President Bashar) Assad do not stop the bombing. To our family, we hope to see you soon and we are OK here.”
The second video shows six peacekeepers sitting in a room. An officer, who identifies himself as a captain, says that as their convoy came under shelling on Wednesday, “we stopped and civilian people helped us for our safety and distributed us in different places to keep us safe.”
The targeting of the peacekeepers was likely to heighten Israeli jitters about the Syrian civil war upsetting the delicate balance along the frontier between the two countries. Israel captured Syria’s Golan Heights in the 1967 Mideast war, and a U.N. monitoring force, UNDOF, was sent in 1974, a year after another Mideast war, to enforce an armistice deal between Syria and Israel.
A spokesman for the Martyrs of Yarmouk Brigades, which is holding the peacekeepers, told The Associated Press via Skype that all the 21 peacekeepers “are fine and in good health.”
“We consider them guests,” he added.
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