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
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

Syrian Rebels Poised for Anti-Russia Collaboration

Forty-one insurgent groups issue joint statement vowing retaliation for Russian air offensives More

Political Maneuver Revives Export-Import Bank's Chances

Parliamentary tactic gets bill out of committee, but it faces opposition in the Senate More

Beijing Warns US on S. China Sea Patrols

Warning follows news reports Thursday that US military is planning to sail warships close to artificial islands Beijing has been aggressively building More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
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.
House Republicans in Chaos as Speaker Favorite Withdrawsi
Jim Malone
October 09, 2015 12:32 AM
The Republican widely expected to become the next speaker of the House of Representatives shocked his colleagues Thursday by announcing he was withdrawing his candidacy. The decision by Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy means the race to succeed retiring Speaker John Boehner is now wide open. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone reports.

Video House Republicans in Chaos as Speaker Favorite Withdraws

The Republican widely expected to become the next speaker of the House of Representatives shocked his colleagues Thursday by announcing he was withdrawing his candidacy. The decision by Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy means the race to succeed retiring Speaker John Boehner is now wide open. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone reports.

Video German, US Officials Investigate Volkswagen

German officials have taken steps to restore some of the reputation their car industry has lost after a recent Volkswagen diesel emissions scandal. Authorities have searched Volkswagen headquarters and other locations in an effort to identify the culprits in the creation of software that helps cheat on emission tests. Meanwhile, a group of lawmakers in Washington held a hearing to get to the bottom of the cheating strategy that was first discovered in the United States. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Why Are Gun Laws So Hard for Congress to Tackle?

Since taking office, President Barack Obama has spoken out or issued statements about 15 mass shootings. The most recent shooting, in which 10 people were killed at a community college, sparked outrage over the nation's gun laws. But changing those laws isn't as easy as many think. VOA's Carolyn Presutti reports.

Video Hungary Criticized for Handling of Refugees

Amnesty International has accused Hungary of breaking multiple international and European human rights laws in its handling of the refugee crisis. As Henry Ridgwell reports, thousands of migrants and refugees continue to travel through the Balkans to Hungary every day.

Video Iraqi-Kurdish Teachers Vow to Continue Protest

Sixteen people were injured when police used tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse teachers and other public employees who took to the streets in Iraq’s Kurdish north, demanding their salaries from the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG). VOA’s Dilshad Anwar, in Sulaimaniya, caught up with protesting teachers who say they have not been paid for three months. Parke Brewer narrates his report.

Video Syrian Village Community Faces Double Displacement in Lebanon

Driven by war from their village in southwestern Syria, a group of families found shelter in Lebanon, resettling en masse in a half-built university to form one of the biggest settlements of its kind in Lebanon. Three years later, however, they now face being kicked out and dispersed in a country where finding shelter as a refugee can be especially tough. John Owens has more for VOA from the city of Saida, also known as Sidon.

Video Bat Colony: Unusual Tourist Attraction in Texas

The action hero Batman might be everyone’s favorite but real bats hardly get that kind of adoration. Put more than a million of these creatures of the night together and it only evokes images of horror. Sarah Zaman visited the largest urban bat colony in North America to see just how well bat and human get along with each other.

Video Device Shows Promise of Stopping Motion Sickness

It’s a sickening feeling — the dizziness, nausea and vomiting that comes with motion sickness. But a device now being developed could stop motion sickness by suppressing certain signals in the brain. VOA’s Deborah Block reports.

Video Making a Mint

While apples, corn, and cranberries top the list of fall produce in the US, it’s also the time to harvest gum, candy, and toothpaste—or at least the oil that makes them minty fresh. Erika Celeste reports from South Bend, Indiana on the mint harvest.

Video Activists Decry Lagos Slum Demolition

Acting on a court order, authorities in Nigeria demolished a slum last month in the commercial capital, Lagos. But human rights activists say the order was illegal, and the community was razed to make way for a government housing project. Chris Stein has more from Lagos.

Video TPP Agreed, But Faces Stiff Opposition

President Barack Obama promoted the Trans-Pacific Partnership on Tuesday, one day after 12 Pacific Rim nations reached the free trade deal in Atlanta. The controversial pact that would involve about 40 percent of global trade still needs approval by lawmakers in respective countries. Zlatica Hoke reports Obama is facing strong opposition to the deal, including from members of his own party.

Video Ukranian Artist Portrays Putin in an Unusual Way

As Russian President Vladimir Putin was addressing the United Nations in New York last month, he was also being featured in an art exhibition in Washington. It’s not a flattering exhibit. It’s done by a Ukrainian artist in a unique medium. And its creator says it’s not only a work of art - it’s a political statement. VOA’s Tetiana Kharchenko has more.

VOA Blogs