UNITED NATIONS, Aug. 30 (Xinhua) -- The United Nations on Saturday said its 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.
"The UN Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) reports that, early this morning, UN Position 69 was fired upon by armed elements," a UN spokesman said in an emailed note 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."
Armed elements also attacked UN Position 68 with mortar and heavy machine gun fire, said the spokesman, citing UNDOF reports.
"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UNDOF has also withdrawn personnel from Observation Post 52 as a precautionary measure.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 no reported casualties amongst UN personnel," said the spokesman.
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.
In another note issued here Friday evening, the spokesman said that the United Nations had been given assurances 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."
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.
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.