UN Peacekeepers Freed From Syria After Firefight, Dozens Rescued

Earlier this week, 43 UN peacekeepers were seized during firefight in Syria at Golan Heights. However, it has been reported that the peacekeepers have now been rescued amid a firefight with the rebels.

Reuters reports that the nearly three dozen U.N. peacekeepers from the Philippines who had been surrounded for days by Islamist militants on the Syrian side of the Golan Heights were rescued during a firefight on Saturday. The news comes directly from UN officials. An unnamed UN official told Reuters:

“They were safely extracted, nearly three dozen of them.”

Officials in the Philippines have said all 72 of the trapped Filipino peacekeepers were safe and other UN officials have confirmed the report. However, there is still a dire situation in Syria with additional peacemakers from the Philippines still trapped in the Syria borders. Peacekeepers from Fiji working for the UN are also reportedly being detained by armed militant groups in the same area. UN officials state that approximately 44 Fijian peacekeepers are being held.

Haaretz notes that earlier in the day Arab media outlets reported some UN peacekeepers had escaped Syria and entered Israel. The reports were confirmed by an Israeli source. It was not immediately clear of which nationality the said peacekeepers are. Many of the peacekeepers were attempting to flee Syria when they were surrounded. Fights began between al-Qaida-linked Syrian rebels and UN peacekeepers in the Golan Heights on Saturday after the militants surrounded their encampment, activists and officials told Haaretz.

The situation is continuing to get worse as the international organization is at risk of getting further sucked into the conflict. Angelina Jolie, who works closely with the UN as a High Commission for Refugees, has publicly condemned the civil war in Syria and has spoken out against the atrocities taking place in the region. Jolie said in her statement:

“International stability is steadily bleeding away in Syria. UN Security Council Resolutions are being ignored, war crimes are being committed on a daily basis, regional countries are staggering under the human burden, and Syrian refugees are dying in the Mediterranean sea, trying to reach Europe. We need to see a new attempt to resolve the conflict and greater efforts to support more than 13 million Syrians who are in desperate need. The reputation and credibility of the international system is at stake with so many thousands of lives threatened in Syria.”

The unrest has led a number of countries, including Philippine government, to say they will be removing their peacekeeping forces as soon as the current peacekeepers tour is over.