Syrian rebels announced Wednesday that they had seized 20 United Nations peacekeepers tasked with monitoring the 1974 cease fire between Syria and Israel in the Golan Heights. The area has been described by U.N. officials have as "unstable and tense."
The "Yarmouk Martyrs Brigade Abu Kayed al-Faleh" posted a YouTube video showing militants posing with a convoy of U.N. vehicles that they had captured.
"The command of the Martyrs of Yarmouk announced that it is holding forces of the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force until the withdrawal of forces of the regime of (President) Bashar Assad from the outskirts of the village of Jamla," a militant wearing civilian clothes said, according to a Reuters translation of the video. "If no withdrawal is made within 24 hours we will treat them as prisoners."
Jamla is located about a mile from the Syrian-Israeli border. Syrian troops are not allowed in the zone under the terms of the cease-fire agreement.
This is not the first time that the demilitarized zone has been affected by the fighting between Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's forces and the rebels. According to the Wall Street Journal, the U.N. force came under attack in December and two of its peacekeepers were seriously wounded.
The Syrian army has been accused of disguising itself as U.N. forces by using white vehicles by Maj. Gen. Iqbal Singha of India, the U.N.'s top general in the area.
The U.N. Security Council condemned the latest act and demanded their immediate release.
"The members of the Security Council demanded the unconditional and immediate release of all the detained UN peacekeepers and called upon all parties to cooperate with UNDOF in good faith to enable it to operate freely and to ensure full security of its personnel," Russian U.N. Ambassador Vitaly Churkin said, who chairs the Security Council for the month of March, in a statement read out to the press following closed-door consultations on the matter.
The larger Free Syrian Army rebel faction similarly condemned the seizure of the U.N. peacekeepers and promised to find them and their captors.