The al-Nusra Front, the Syrian rebel group linked to al-Qaeda, has seized UN weapons, uniforms, and vehicles from peacekeepers in the Golan and set up a zone from which to wage attacks, according to the Syrian United Nations ambassador.
AFP reports that Syrian Ambassador Bashar Jaafari said fighters from al-Nusra “had succeeded in occupying all of the Syrian side” of the Golan Heights, an area that had been overseen for decades by troops from the UN Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF).
“The terrorists are now using United Nations cars, which hold the emblem of the United Nations forces in the Golan. They are using the uniform of the UNDOF, the weapons of UNDOF, the positions of UNDOF to shell on the Syrian army as well as on the civilians in villages,” Jaafari told reporters.
UN peacekeepers withdrew from all of their posts in the Syrian Golan Heights Monday, as Syrian regime forces and rebel factions battled for control of the areas adjacent to the Syrian-Israeli border in what the UN called a “deteriorating situation.”
All the troops posted on the Syrian side of the border had been ordered to pull back into Israel.
On Thursday, 45 Fijian peacekeepers previously held captive by al-Nusra were released in Syria’s part of Golan Heights.
Fighters from the Nusra Front captured the Fijian troops in late August from the buffer zone between Israel and Syria, where a 1,200-strong UN force had monitored the area.
The UN Security Council is due to discuss the crisis on the Golan during a session on Wednesday, prompted by the capture of the Fijian UNDOF troops.
Until Monday, UNDOF monitored the 1974 ceasefire between Israel and Syria on the Golan Heights from within the buffer zone. The UNDOF oversaw a buffer area stretching some 45 miles from Lebanon in the north to Jordan in the south.
Six nations provided troops to UNDOF. Israeli military intervention last week saved the delegation of Irish UNDOF soldiers from capture by al-Nusra, guiding the Irish troops to safety in Israel. Also, Philippine UNDOF soldiers managed to escape from al-Nusra into safety in Israel.