DAMASCUS, Aug. 28 (Xinhua) -- The Syrian Foreign Ministry on Thursday held the armed rebels responsible for kidnapping 43 UN peacekeepers near the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights, according to the state news agency SANA.
"Syria holds the terrorist groups and those standing behind them the responsibility for the wellbeing of the kidnapped UN peacekeepers and demands their immediate release," the Foreign Ministry said in a statement, following the UN declaration that 43 of its Disengagement Observer Force were snatched by armed group on the Syrian side of the al-Qunaitera border crossing with the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights.
The Foreign Ministry's statement said the rebels had previously carried out such kidnapping against the UNDOF peacekeepers, referring to last year's incident when the radical rebels kidnapped 21 peacekeepers in al-Qunaitera and later released them under international mediation.
The UN said UNDOF peacekeepers operating in the Golan Heights separation area between Syria and Israel were detained by "armed elements" early Thursday after a heavy fighting between the Syrian armed forces and rebels.
On Wednesday, an array of radical militant groups seized the border crossing between Syria and the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights, killing 20 Syrian soldiers, activists said.
The seizure of the al-Qunaitera crossing came after intense battles between the al-Qaida-linked Nusra Front, which was backed by like-minded groups, and the Syrian army forces and their loyal troops, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a UK- based watchdog group that relies on a network of activists on ground.
According to the Observatory, the al-Qaida-linked militants unleashed what they called the "Battle of True Promise" which is aimed at seizing many areas in Syria's southern al-Qunaitera province, bordering the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights.
It added that intense battles are still raging in areas in al- Qunaitera and its countryside.
On Thursday, the pan-Arab al-Mayadeen said clashes have renewed between the warring sides in al-Qunaitera, in what appeared to be the Syrian troops' resolve to wrest back control over the border crossing.
Syria has technically been in a state of war with Israel since a long time ago. Their enmity has risen with the Syrian administration rendering support to the Lebanese Hezbollah.
Israel captured the Golan Heights from Syria during the 1967 Arab-Israel war. Syria launched another war in 1973 to regain some small parts of the land that Israel occupied six years earlier.
In recent months of the Syrian crisis, Israel has offered medical treatment to dozens of Syrian rebels in al-Qunaitera, amid local warnings that it was doing so to protect its side of the borders against possible threats from radical militants.
The surge in the radical rebels' operations came just days after the UN Security Council adopted a resolution, allowing actions to put an end to the threats of the Nusra Front and the Islamic State (IS) militants.