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UN chief slams attacks on peacekeepers in Golan Heights

English.news.cn   2014-08-31 05:50:57

UNITED NATIONS, Aug. 30 (Xinhua) -- UN Secretary-General Ban Ki- moon on Saturday strongly condemned an attack by armed elements earlier in the day on the UN peacekeeping force in the Golan Heights and "the continuing detention and restriction of the movements" on the peacekeepers from Fiji and the Philippines.

"The secretary-general strongly condemns the attack today on positions of the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force ( UNDOF) and the continuing detention and restrictions of movement on 84 UNDOF peacekeepers from the Fijian and Philippine Battalions by armed non-state actors, including the Al Nusra Front," said a statement issued here by Ban's spokesman.

Earlier Saturday, the spokesman said that UN peacekeepers in the Golan Heights were attacked by "armed elements" earlier in the day "with mortar and heavy machine gun fire," as efforts are intensified to achieve the safe release of 44 blue helmets detained Thursday.

There are no reported casualties among personnel of UNDOF, the spokesman told reporters here earlier Saturday.

According to UNDOF, its Force Reaction Group was deployed to UN Position 69, which was fired on by armed elements. All 32 Filipino UN personnel from this position have been extricated and are now safe. There are still another 40 Filipino UN personnel at a different position whose movements remain restricted.

Armed elements also attacked UN Position 68 with mortar and heavy machine gun fire. The UN peacekeepers returned fire and prevented the attackers from entering the position. Personnel were prevented from moving out as firing continued.

UNDOF has also withdrawn personnel from one of its observation posts as a precautionary measure after the firing in the vicinity.

UNDOF on Wednesday said that several mortar rounds struck near its positions as Syrian rebel fighters, including some from Al- Qaeda affiliate Al-Nusra Front, stormed the crossing in deadly fighting with Syrian government troops.

On Thursday, 44 peacekeepers from Fiji were captured by armed Syrian rebels and 72 others were confined to their base because of continued fighting in the area, the spokesman said.

"The secretary-general demands the unconditional and immediate release of all the detained United Nations peacekeepers and calls upon all parties to cooperate fully with UNDOF to enable it to operate freely and to ensure full safety and security of its personnel and assets," the statement said.

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 serving with UNDOF monitor the 1974 disengagement accord between Syria and Israel after their 1973 war. As of July 31, there are 1,223 peacekeepers from six countries -- Fiji, India, Ireland, Nepal, Netherlands, and the Philippines -- serving in the force.

In June, the UN Security Council extended UNDOF's mandate for another six months, until Dec. 31, 2014.

Editor: Mu Xuequan
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