UN says 4 peacekeepers detained on Golan Heights

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Associated Press

Posted on May 7, 2013 at 10:32 AM

Updated Tuesday, May 7 at 11:00 AM

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — For the second time in two months, unarmed U.N. military observers have been taken captive by a Syrian rebel group.

The U.N. says the four peacekeepers from the Philippines were detained today while on patrol on the Golan Heights, in a tense area that separates Syria and Israel.

The separation zone is supposed to be free of any armed groups -- but in recent months, it's been the scene of fighting between Syrian government forces and rebel fighters.

A U.N. spokesman says the Yarmouk Martyrs Brigades claimed responsibility. In early March, the same rebel group held 21 Filipino U.N. peacekeepers for four days before releasing them unharmed.

The rebel unit said it suspects that peacekeepers are shielding Syrian President Bashar Assad's troops, who it says had killed civilians during a sweep of a town in southern Syria.

The group says in a statement on its Facebook page that the peacekeepers are not their hostages, but that they are being kept with the rebels for their own safety.

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