United Nations, Aug 31 IANS | 3 months ago

The UN Saturday said its peacekeepers in the Golan Heights were attacked by "armed elements" "with mortar and heavy machine gun fire" as efforts are made to achieve the safe release of 44 detained solders Thursday.

"The UN Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) reported that, early this morning, UN Position 69 was fired upon by armed elements," a UN spokesman said in an emailed note to the press here.

"The mission's Force Reaction Group has been deployed to the position and all 32 Filipino personnel from this position have been extricated and are now safe," Xinua quoted the UN statement as saying.

Armed elements also attacked the UN Position 68 with mortar and heavy machine gun fire, the spokesman said.

"The UN peacekeepers returned fire and prevented the attackers from entering the position," the spokesman said.

"Position 68 is currently under fire, preventing the personnel from moving out."

UNDOF has also withdrawn personnel from Observation Post 52 as a precautionary measure.

There are, however, no reported casualties, the spokesman said.

On Friday, another UNDOF contingent was caught in a standoff with Syrian rebels, one day after an armed group detained 44 UN peacekeepers in the area near the Israeli-controlled Golan Heights.

"We are still working towards the safe release of the detained 44 Fijian peacekeepers from Position 27," the spokesman said.

UN Friday said that the Fijian soldiers were "safe and in good health," and they had been "removed from an active battlefield to a safe area for their own protection."

Twenty-five Philippines peacekeepers serving with UNDOF were detained by armed elements in March and May of 2013. They were released safely shortly afterward.

Peacekeepers were serving with UNDOF to monitor the 1974 disengagement accord between Syria and Israel.

As of July 31, there are 1,223 peacekeepers from six countries -- Fiji, India, Ireland, Nepal, Netherlands, and the Philippines -- serving in the force.

(Posted on 31-08-2014)

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