Rebels on the Syrian side of the Golan abducted four Filipino UN peacekeepers on Tuesday, AFP reported.
The four peacekeepers were patrolling near the Al-Jamlah locality in the ceasefire zone between Israel and Syria, where 21 Filipino peacekeepers were held by Syrian rebels for three days in March, the United Nations said.
In a posting on their Facebook page, the “Yarmuk Martyrs Brigade” said they had taken the four peacekeepers for their own safety because of fierce fighting in the area, according to AFP.
The posting showed a photograph of four men in blue flak jackets, with three of them marked “UN” and “Philippines.”
The ceasefire line has seen increased hostilities from the two-year-old Syrian war that has cost more than 70,000 lives, with shells from the Syrian side hitting Israeli territory and the Israeli military firing back.
With tensions heightened after the Israeli raids on Syria, the United Nations called on the Jewish state to halt increased military air patrols over Lebanon, UN spokesman Martin Nesirky said in New York.
“We are aware of the concerns raised by the Lebanese government in this regard. The UN interim force has lodged firm protests with the Israeli Defense Force on this matter asking them to cease the overflights,” he said.
Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon said on Tuesday that Israel was not getting involved in Syria’s war but defending its security when “red lines” were crossed.
“We are not getting involved in the civil war in Syria but we have made clear what our interests are,” he said.
“We have laid down red lines among which are the transfer of sophisticated weapons to terror organizations like Hezbollah and others, or (the transfer of) chemical weapons, or violations of our sovereignty,” he said.
On the humanitarian front, the United Nations said on Tuesday that the number of Syrians displaced within their homeland by the conflict has reached 4.25 million.
“Movement by internally displaced persons continues to be large-scale and fluid, as many Syrians are displaced multiple times,” said Jens Laerke, spokesman for the Office of the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, according to AFP.
“Over the past months, the number has more than doubled, from an estimated two million to 4.25 million people,” he told reporters.