A rebel group that call themselves the “Martyrs of Yarmouk,” have taken 21 U.N. peacekeepers hostage in an area near the Golan Heights in the southern part of Syria. The group said Syria’s government forces must pull their tanks and soldiers out of the area before the detainees will be released, according to a person who has been in contact with the rebels.
The rebels and detainees or “guests” as they are called, are in the tiny village of Jamla, just a mile from a ceasefire area close to the Golan Heights. Israel occupies the Golan Heights. The rebel group said its guests would not be harmed.
The peacekeepers capture close to Israeli-occupied territory underlines the worry that the civil war in Syria threatens to cross its borders into neighboring countries. Israel has been clear with both sides that it would not tolerate any violence that spreads into its territory and in this instance the Golan Heights, which was captured in 1967 by Israel.
Forty-eight Syrian Army soldiers were killed on Monday by Sunni Muslims inside Iraq and cross border conflict has been taking place inside both Turkey and Lebanon that has killed a number of people.
In just Syria, an estimated 70,000 people have lost their lives since the conflict started in March of 2011. At first, the uprising was little more than a peaceful protest, but has transformed into a full-fledged civil war. President Bashar al-Assad has insisted he will discuss a cease fire but only with those factions willing to drop their arms and only if an agreement is reached, where he remains in power.