News / Middle East

UN: Peacekeepers Taken in Syria Are Safe

Syrian refugees, fleeing the recent fighting in Arsal, wait by trucks in the Bekaa valley, near the Lebanese border with Syria, Aug. 8, 2014.
Syrian refugees, fleeing the recent fighting in Arsal, wait by trucks in the Bekaa valley, near the Lebanese border with Syria, Aug. 8, 2014.
Lisa Schlein

The United Nations says 44 peacekeepers taken from their post on the Syria-Israel border a day earlier were removed "for their own protection."

The U.N. said Friday it has received assurances from credible sources that the peacekeepers are "safe and in good health" and that "the intention behind those holding the peacekeepers was to remove them from an active battlefield."

The name of the group holding the soldiers has not been released.

Earlier media reports indicated involvement by the al-Qaida-linked al-Nusra Front.

The international organization has not made direct contact with the soldiers, who are nationals of Fiji serving on the U.N.'s Disengagement Observer Force [UNDOF] in the Golan Heights.

The U.N. also said Friday that 72 Philippine peacekeepers who were confined to their two camps by an unnamed group on Thursday are unharmed.

The Philippine government announced last week its 331 troops in the Golan Heights would be removed at the end of their tour of duty in October, amid worsening security conditions.

UNDOF has patrolled the disputed area since 1974.

Surge of refugees

More than three years of civil war in Syria has forced three million people to flee their homeland, and the fighting is only intensifying, the U.N. refugee agency said Friday.

The United Nations High Commission on Refugees said the flight from Syria has created the world's largest population of refugees under that U.N. agency's care.

The Syrian crisis is ”the biggest humanitarian emergency of our era,” the agency said.

Syria refugees - August, 29, 2014Syria refugees - August, 29, 2014
x
Syria refugees - August, 29, 2014
Syria refugees - August, 29, 2014

Speaking in Geneva, UNHCR spokeswoman Melissa Fleming said refugees fleeing to neighboring countries are arriving exhausted, frightened and broke. Most people have been on the run for a year or more - taking shelter in one village after another until they driven to leave the country entirely.

There are also worrying signs that escaping Syria is becoming more difficult for refugees, with many being forced to bribe armed soldiers at makeshift border checkpoints.

"And many have to resort to transport using smugglers in order to get out - is becoming very steep," she said. "It may not sound like a lot: around $100 per person, in many cases more. But for Syrians now who have had no work for many years, this is absolutely, hugely expensive.”  

The vast majority of refugees are in Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey, and their numbers are straining those nations' economies. A recent UNHCR survey found more than four in five Syrian emigres living outside refugee camps, struggling to make a living in towns and cities. More than a third live in sub-standard shelters.

Lebanon continues to keep its borders open; Jordan and Turkey screen Syrian refugees before admitting them, because of security concerns.  

Iraq's central government, meanwhile, has lost control of a large portion of its territory to militants from the Islamic State group and other extremists, so its border is now closed to Syrian refugees. More than a third of Iraq, including Anbar province, is now in the hands of extremist forces, the U.N. estimated.

She also said about 300 Syrians are actually returning to Syria every day, due to the Iraqi violence.

"So this gives you a picture of the situation. When you actually decide to return to Syria - or to flee to Syria, as some Iraqis have - things must be pretty bad in Iraq," she said.

The United Nations estimates nearly 200,000 people have been killed since the Syrian conflict began in March 2011.

Information from The Associated Press and Reuters was used in this report.

 

You May Like

Tired of Waiting, South Africans Demand Change ‘Now’

With chronic poverty and lack of basic services largely fueling recent xenophobic attacks, many in Rainbow Nation say it’s time for government to act More

Challenges Ahead for China's Development Plans in Pakistan

Planned $46 billion in energy and infrastructure investments in Pakistan are aimed at transforming the country into a regional hub for trade and investment More

Audio 'Forbidden City' Revisits Little Known Era of Asian-American Entertainment

Little-known chapter of entertainment history captured in 80s documentary is revisited in new digitally remastered format and book More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: gretta from: philippines
August 29, 2014 7:28 PM
How can you fight if you dont have the means to do so? 10 people against 1 armed men is still a lost for those unarmed men...

by: sr pablo pueblo from: NYC
August 29, 2014 6:14 PM
I think if this 3 Million people fight in stead of hide all this will be resolved.
Like Zapata said the ground is for the one that worked it.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Study: Insecticide Damaging Wild Bee Populationsi
X
April 24, 2015 10:13 PM
A popular but controversial type of insecticide is damaging important wild bee populations, according to a new study. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Study: Insecticide Damaging Wild Bee Populations

A popular but controversial type of insecticide is damaging important wild bee populations, according to a new study. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Data Servers Could Heat Private Homes

As every computer owner knows, when their machines run a complex program they get pretty hot. In fact, cooling the processors can be expensive, especially when you're dealing with huge banks of computer servers. But what if that energy could heat private homes? VOA’s George Putic reports that a Dutch energy firm aims to do just that.
Video

Video Cinema That Crosses Borders Showcased at Tribeca Film Festival

Among the nearly 100 feature length films being shown at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival in New York City are more than 20 documentaries and features with international appeal, from a film about a Congolese businessman in China, to documentaries shot in Pakistan and diaspora communities in the U.S., to a poetic look at disaffected South African youth. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video UN Confronts Threat of Young Radicals

The radicalization and recruitment of young people into Islamist extremist groups has become a growing challenge for governments worldwide. On Thursday, the U.N. Security Council heard from experts on the issue, which has become a potent threat to international peace and security. VOA’s Margaret Besheer reports.
Video

Video Growing Numbers of Turks Discover Armenian Ancestry

In a climate of improved tolerance, growing numbers of people in Turkey are discovering their grandmothers were Armenian. Hundreds of thousands of Armenians escaped the mass deportations and slaughter of the early 1900's by forced conversion to Islam. Or, Armenian children were taken in by Turkish families and assimilated. Now their stories are increasingly being heard. Dorian Jones reports from Istanbul that the revelations are viewed as an important step.
Video

Video Migrants Trek Through Western Balkans to Reach EU

Migrants from Africa and other places are finding different routes into the European Union in search of a better life. The Associated Press followed one clandestine group to document their trek through the western Balkans to Hungary. Zlatica Hoke reports that the migrants started using that route about four years ago. Since then, it has become the second-most popular path into Western Europe, after the option of sailing from North Africa to Italy.
Video

Video TIME Magazine Honors Activists, Pioneers Seen as Influential

TIME Magazine has released its list of celebrities, leaders and activists, whom it deems the world’s “most influential” in 2015. VOA's Ramon Taylor reports from New York.
Video

Video US Businesses See Cuba as New Frontier

The Obama administration's opening toward Cuba is giving U.S. companies hope they'll be able to do business in Cuba despite the continuation of the U.S. economic embargo against the communist nation. Some American companies have been able to export some products to Cuba, but the recent lifting of Cuba's terrorism designation could relax other restrictions. As VOA's Daniela Schrier reports, corporate heavy hitters are lining up to head across the Florida Straits - though experts urge caution.
Video

Video Kenya Launches Police Recruitment Drive After Terror Attacks

Kenya launched a major police recruitment drive this week as part of a large-scale effort to boost security following a recent spate of terror attacks. VOA’s Gabe Joselow reports that allegations of corruption in the process are raising old concerns about the integrity of Kenya’s security forces.
Video

Video Japan, China in Race for Asia High-Speed Rail Projects

A lucrative competition is underway in Asia for billions of dollars in high-speed rail projects. Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Malaysia Thailand and Vietnam are among the countries planning to move onto the fast track. They are negotiating with Japan and the upstart Chinese who are locked in a duel to revolutionize transportation across Asia. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman in Bangkok has details.
Video

Video Scientists: Mosquitoes Attracted By Our Genes

Some people always seem to get bitten by mosquitoes more than others. Now, scientists have proved that is really the case - and they say it’s all because of genes. It’s hoped the research might lead to new preventative treatments for diseases like malaria, as Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Bible Museum Coming to Washington DC

Washington is the center of American political power and also home to some of the nation’s most visited museums. A new one that will showcase the Bible has skeptics questioning the motives of its conservative Christian funders. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Armenia and Politics of Word 'Genocide'

A century ago this April, hundreds of thousands of Armenians of the Turkish Ottoman empire were deported and massacred, and their culture erased from their traditional lands. While broadly accepted by the U.N. and at least 20 countries as “genocide”, the United States and Turkey have resisted using that word to describe the atrocities that stretched from 1915 to 1923. But Armenians have never forgotten.
Video

Video Afghan First Lady Pledges No Roll Back on Women's Rights

Afghan First Lady Rula Ghani, named one of Time's 100 Most Influential, says women should take part in talks with Taliban. VOA's Rokhsar Azamee has more from Kabul.
Video

Video New Brain Mapping Techniques Could Ease Chronic Pain

From Boulder, Colorado, Shelley Schlender reports that new methods for mapping pain in the brain are providing validation for chronic pain and might someday guide better treatment.

VOA Blogs