News / Middle East

UN Peacekeepers Seized in Syria's Golan Heights

An image taken from a video uploaded on YouTube on March 6, 2013 allegedly shows armed fighters standing in front of a United Nations Disengagement Force (UNDOF) vehicle in the Golan Heights between Syria and Israel. (AFP/YouTube)
An image taken from a video uploaded on YouTube on March 6, 2013 allegedly shows armed fighters standing in front of a United Nations Disengagement Force (UNDOF) vehicle in the Golan Heights between Syria and Israel. (AFP/YouTube)
VOA News
United Nations peacekeepers have been detained by armed men in Syria, near the disengagement zone with Israel.

A U.N. spokesman said a group of about 20 peacekeepers was seized in the Golan Heights. He said the peacekeepers had been taking supplies to a U.N. observation post when they were stopped by a group of about 30 armed fighters.

The U.N. is sending a team to investigate. Reuter news agency has reported that videos posted to YouTube show Syrian rebels with the U.N. supply convoy.

The seizure of the peacekeepers comes on the same day that the head of the rebels' military council pleaded with the international community to supply the Free Syrian Army with more weapons.

General Salim Idriss told a news conference in Brussels, Belgium "the [Assad] regime is using very heavy weapons. Long distance artillery, surface-to-surface missiles, Scud missiles."

General Salim Idriss, head of the Free Syrian Army Supreme Military Council said, "We in the Free Syrian Army need, and it is very clearly to say, we need weapons and ammunition to stop [the] killing, to defend ourselves and to defend, to defend our citizens."

Some Western countries have been hesitant to provide the rebels with weapons for fear they might fall into the hands of extremists and groups linked to al-Qaida. But Britain said Wednesday it would increase aid to Syrian opposition forces and even provide armored vehicles.

British Foreign Secretary William Hague said, "In our view if a political solution to the crisis in Syria is not found and the conflict continues, we and the rest of the European Union will have to be ready to move further and we should not rule out any option for saving lives."

The Arab League Wednesday issued a statement saying member states are free to provide military aid to forces fighting against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. The league has until now put an emphasis on humanitarian aid.

Earlier Wednesday, the United Nations said the number of refugees from Syria's two-year conflict has reached one million, while millions more people are displaced inside Syria.

The U.N. refugee agency chief, Antonio Guterres, said that Syria is "spiraling towards full-scale disaster."

Most of the refugees have gone to Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey, Iraq and Egypt, where those governments are straining to meet their needs.  

UNHCR spokeswoman Sybella Wilkes said many arrive with no possessions, and that the number is increasing far faster than expected.

“We have seen an unrelenting flow of Syrian refugees - pretty much since the middle of last year," she said. "But, since the beginning of this year, we have had an average of 7,000 Syrian refugees crossing the border every single day. They have come at double the rate we anticipated. In December, we put out a plan for $1 billion where we anticipated that over one million would arrive by the end of June. They have now have arrived at the beginning of March."

The U.N. refugee agency said it has received only a quarter of the funds it needs for humanitarian operations.

You May Like

Karzai's Legacy: Missed Opportunities?

Afghanistan's president leaves behind a much different nation than the one he inherited, yet his legacy from 13 years in power is getting mixed reviews More

Video Secret Service Chief Under Fire for White House Security Breach

Julia Pierson faces tough questions from lawmakers after recent intrusion at White House, says: 'It is clear that our security plan was not executed properly' More

Frustrated, Liberian Students Want Ebola Fight Role

Thousands have volunteered to go to counties, rural villages to talk to people in their language about deadly virus More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Malaysia Struggles to Stop People Joining Jihadi
X
Mahi Ramakrishnan
September 30, 2014 2:16 PM
Malaysian authorities say militant groups like the so-called "Islamic State" have used social media to entice at least three dozen Malaysian Muslims to fight in what they call "jihad" in Syria and Iraq. As Mahi Ramkrishnan reports from Kuala Lumpur, counterterrorism police are deeply worried about what could happen when these militants return home.
Video

Video Malaysia Struggles to Stop People Joining Jihad

Malaysian authorities say militant groups like the so-called "Islamic State" have used social media to entice at least three dozen Malaysian Muslims to fight in what they call "jihad" in Syria and Iraq. As Mahi Ramkrishnan reports from Kuala Lumpur, counterterrorism police are deeply worried about what could happen when these militants return home.
Video

Video Could US Have Done More to Stop Rise of Islamic State?

President Obama says airstrikes against Islamic State militants in Syria will likely continue for some time because, in his words, "there is a cancer that has grown for too long." So what if President Obama had acted sooner in Syria to arm more-moderate opponents of both the Islamic State and the Syrian government? VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports from the United Nations.
Video

Video Treasure Hunters Seek 'Hidden Treasure' in Central Kenya

Could a cave in a small village in central Kenya be the site of buried treasure? A rumor of riches, left behind by colonialists, has some residents dreaming of wealth, while others see it as a dangerous hoax. VOA's Gabe Joselow has the story.
Video

Video Iran's Rouhani Skeptical on Syria Strikes

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani expressed skepticism Friday that U.S.-led airstrikes in Iraq and Syria could crush Islamic State militants. From New York, VOA’s Margaret Besheer reports the president was also hopeful that questions about Iran’s nuclear program could be resolved soon.
Video

Video US House Speaker: Congress Should Debate Authorization Against IS

As wave after wave of U.S. airstrikes target Islamic State militants, the speaker of the Republican-controlled House of Representatives says he would be willing to call Congress back into session to debate a formal, broad authorization for the use of military force. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports from Washington, where legislators left town 10 days ago for a seven-week recess.
Video

Video Ebola Patients Find No Treatment at Sierra Leone Holding Center

At a holding facility in Makeni, central Sierra Leone, dozens of sick people sit on the floor in an empty university building. They wait in filthy conditions. It's a 16-hour drive by ambulance to Kailahun Ebola treatment center. Adam Bailes was there and reports on what he says are some of the worst situations he has seen since the beginning of this Ebola outbreak. And he says it appears case numbers may already be far worse than authorities acknowledge.
Video

Video Identifying Bodies Found in Texas Border Region

Thousands of immigrants have died after crossing the border from Mexico into remote areas of the southwestern United States in recent years. Local officials in south Texas alone have found hundreds of unidentified bodies and buried them in mass graves in local cemeteries. Now an anthropologist and her students at Baylor University have been exhuming bodies and looking for clues to identify them. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from Waco, Texas.
Video

Video Ebola Robs Liberians of Chance to Say Good-Bye to Loved Ones

In Liberia, where Ebola has killed more than 1,500 people, authorities have worked hard to convince people to allow specialized burial teams to take away dead bodies. But these safety measures, while necessary, make it hard for people to say good bye to their loved ones. VOA's Anne Look reports on the tragedy from Liberia.
Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.

AppleAndroid