The Wall Street Journal reports that 20 United Nations Peacekeepers who patrol the Golan Heights to ensure there are no conflicts between Israeli and Syrian military units were captured by approximately 30 armed rebels.
Earlier Wednesday, a group calling itself the Yarmouk Martyrs Brigade Abu Kayed al-Faleh released a YouTube video saying it had captured the peacekeepers. Standing before three U.N. vehicles, a spokesman for the rebel group said in the video that the peacekeepers would be held "until the withdrawal of the Bashar al-Assad regime's forces to the edges of the Syrian border town of Jamlah."
"If this withdrawal does not occur in the next 24 hours, we will treat these men on the basis that they are hostages," the spokesman said.
Their has been much discussion around here about arming the Syrian rebels. I think this episode reveals the inherent dangers of such a policy. This taking of innocent hostages is inexcusable.
The UN troops are part of the U.N. Disengagement Observer Force, or Undof, which patrols the demilitarized zone in the Golan Heights. These UN troops have maintained the peace for 30 years. They have been caught in the crossfire between the rebels and the Syrian Army. Two peacekeepers were seriously wounded in December. The Japanese have already withdrawn their troops and Crotia is planning on following suit.
It would be wrong to lay all the blame for the heightened danger on the rebels, but today's kidnapping is clearly their handiwork.