UN peacekeepers detained by rebel group in Golan Heights

– The United Nations said on Thursday that 43 of its peacekeepers on the Syrian side of the Golan Heights had been detained by an armed group fighting government forces there.

The incident came a day after rebel fighters seized a Syrian crossing point at the frontier with the Israeli-held Golan Heights.

A UN statement said that "during a period of increased fighting" that began on Wednesday, "forty-three peacekeepers from the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) were detained early this morning by an armed group" near the town of Quneitra.

It was not immediately clear which rebel group was holding the peacekeepers.

Another 81 peacekeepers "are currently being restricted to their positions" near the villages of Ruwayhinah and Burayqah, the statement said.

"The United Nations is making every effort to secure the release of the detained peacekeepers and to restore the full freedom of movement of the Force throughout its area of operation," the statement said.

Rebel fighters detained UNDOF peacekeepers in March and May of last year, but in both cases they were released unharmed.

UN observers are stationed in a buffer zone between Syrian and Israeli forces on the Golan Heights to monitor compliance with a 1974 disengagement agreement between Israel and Syria after the 1973 Middle East war. More than 1,200 peacekeepers from six countries serve in the force.