The Security Council strongly condemned the detention today by “armed elements of the Syrian opposition” of a group of United Nations peacekeepers who monitor the ceasefire in the Golan Heights between Israel and Syria, and demanded their immediate release.
The United Nations confirmation on Wednesday came in response to videos posted online that purported to show fighters with the seized convoy.
Syrian rebels say they will hold them captive until President Bashar al-Assad’s forces pull back from a rebel-held village, Jamlah, which has seen heavy recent fighting, according to Reuters.
“If no withdrawal is made within 24 hours we will treat them as prisoners,” he said, accusing them of collaborating with security forces to push the rebels out of Jamla.
More than 20 peacekeepers from the UN Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) were being held, according to Ambassador Vitaly Churkin of Russia, which holds the March presidency of the 15-member Council.
“The members of the Security Council demanded the unconditional and immediate release of all the detained UN peacekeepers and called upon all parties to cooperate with UNDOF in good faith to enable it to operate freely and to ensure full security of its personnel,” Mr. Churkin said in a statement read out to the press following closed-door consultations on the matter.
A spokesperson for Security-General Ban Ki-moon said that approximately 30 armed fighters had stopped and detained the peacekeepers within the Area of Limitation, east of the B-Line.
“The UN observers were on a regular supply mission and were stopped near Observation Post 58, which had sustained damage and was evacuated this past weekend following heavy combat in close proximity, at Al Jamlah,” Eduardo del Buey told reporters.
“The mission is dispatching a team to assess the situation and attempt a resolution,” he said.
Peacekeepers serving with UNDOF monitor the 1974 disengagement accord between Syria and Israel after their 1973 war. In December, the Security Council extended the mission’s mandate for another six months, until 30 June 2013.
Israel has warned that it will not “stand idle” as Syria’s civil war spills over into the Golan region.