NEW YORK, Aug. 28 (UPI) -- The United Nations said Thursday it is attempting to gain the release of 43 U.N. peacekeepers who have been detained by an unidentified armed group in the Golan Heights.
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon issued a statement on Thursday concerning their detention.
"During a period of increased fighting beginning yesterday (Wednesday) between armed elements and Syrian Arab Armed Forces within the area of separation in the Golan Heights, 43 peacekeepers from the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) were detained early this morning (Thursday) by an armed group in the vicinity of Al Qunaytirah. In addition, another 81 UNDOF peacekeepers are currently being restricted to their positions in the vicinity of Ar Ruwayhinah and Burayqah."
The U.N., he said, "is making every effort to secure the release of the detained peacekeepers, and to restore the full freedom of movement of the Force throughout its area of operation."
On Thursday, Syrian jets bombarded Islamist rebels after members of al-Qaida's Syria wing, al-Nusra Front, along with several militant groups seized the checkpoint Wednesday. The checkpoint is located approximately 12 miles west of the Syrian town of Quneitra, which is under state control.
U.N. peacekeepers have monitored the border crossing area since Israel and Syria signed a disengagement accord in 1974 following their 1973 war. The mission is comprised of 1,223 peacekeepers from Fiji, India, Ireland, Nepal, the Netherlands and Philippines.