Syria peacekeepers attacked

Associated Press Published:

BEIRUT -- Clashes erupted between al-Qaida-linked Syrian rebels and U.N. peacekeepers in the Golan Heights on Saturday after the militants surrounded their encampment, activists and officials said, as the international organization risked being sucked further into the conflict.

Other U.N. peacekeepers were able to flee from a different encampment that was also surrounded by SFlbrebels of the Nusra Front, al-Qaida's Syrian affiliate.

The clashes came after Syrian rebel groups, including the Nusra Front, overran the Quneitra crossing on the frontier between Syrian and Israeli controlled parts of the Golan Heights on Wednesday, seizing 44 Fijian peacekeepers.

The gunbattle began early Saturday at the Rwihana base some 1.5 miles from Quneitra, where 40 Filipino peacekeepers were surrounded by Nusra fighters who were ordering them to surrender, officials said.

The U.N. mission, known as UNDOF, has 1,223 troops from six countries: Fiji, India, Ireland, Nepal, Netherlands and the Philippines.

The 35 Filipino U.N. peacekeepers at the Breiqa encampment were extracted on Saturday morning, with the assistance of Irish peacekeepers who rushed to the scene, said officials.

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