UNITED NATIONS, Aug. 30 (Xinhua) -- The UN Security Council on Saturday joined UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in strongly condemning a renewed attack on UN peacekeepers in the Golan Heights and continued detention of 44 blue helmets from Fiji, and demanded their "immediate and unconditional release."
"The members of the Security Council strongly condemned continued attacks today on United Nations Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) positions in the Golan Heights," the 15-nation UN body said in a statement to the press.
The council members reiterated their strong condemnation of the ongoing detention of 44 Fijian peacekeepers from position 27, as well as the surrounding of position 68, where Security Council- designated terrorist groups and non-state armed actors continue to trap 40 Filipino peacekeepers, the statement said.
"The members demanded the immediate and unconditional release of these peacekeepers, as well as their safe passage," said the statement.
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 United Nations said.
Earlier Saturday, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon 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 84 blue helmets from Fiji and the Philippines.
The UN peacekeepers in the Golan Heights were attacked by " armed elements" on Saturday morning "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UNDOF has also withdrawn personnel from one of its observation posts as a precautionary measure after the firing in the vicinity.
"The members of the Security Council welcomed news that 32 Filipino peacekeepers from position 69 were extricated to safety," the statement said. "They insisted that UNDOF's mandate, impartiality, operations, safety, and security must be respected."
"They called upon all parties to cooperate with UNDOF in good faith to enable it to operate freely and to ensure full security of its personnel," the statement said. "They also called upon countries with influence to strongly convey to those responsible in the UNDOF area of operation to immediately release the peacekeepers."
"The members of the Security Council reaffirmed their unconditional support for UNDOF," the statement added.
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.
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"The United Nations has received assurances from credible sources that the 44 peacekeepers from the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) who were taken from their position on the morning of Thursday, 28 August, are safe and in good health," the spokesman said in an emailed note to the press here. Full Story
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