Doha, 16 Dzulqa’dah 1435/11 September 2014 (MINA) – The Syrian opposition group the Nusra Front has released all Fijian soldiers who worked as UN peacekeepers in the Golan Heights, Al Jazeera has learned.
The 45 peacekeepers were expected to cross from Syria into the Israeli side of the disputed territory, Al Jazeera’s Rula Amin, reporting from Beirut, said.
She said all the peacekeepers are safe, according to Al Jazeera report quoted by Mi’raj Islamic News Agency (MINA), Thursday.
On Wednesday the group posted a video on its Twitter and YouTube accounts in which the hostages, from the South Pacific nation of Fiji, said they expected to be freed soon.
The Fijian peacekeepers were captured at their post in August, about 8km away from the 70 Philippine troops, who were rescued following an attack on their post on the Syrian side of the border.
Syria’s three-year civil war reached the frontier with Israeli-controlled territory last month when rebel fighters overran a crossing point in the line that has separated Israelis from Syrians in the Golan Heights since a 1973 war.
Syria and Israel technically remain at war. Syrian troops are not allowed in an “area of separation: under a 1973 ceasefire formalised in 1974.
The UN force monitors the area of separation, a narrow strip of land running about 70km from Mount Hermon on the Lebanese border to the Yarmouk River frontier with Jordan.
It comprises 1,223 soldiers from Fiji, India, Ireland, Nepal, Netherlands and the Philippines.
Austria, Japan and Croatia have all pulled their troops out of the monitoring force due to the deteriorating security situation and spillover from the Syrian war.
Qatar, one country in the Middle East thought by the United States to have influence with the armed oposition group, said Fiji had formally requested its assistance in freeing the hostages.
US officials have said that Qatar played a critical role in persuading the Nusra Front to free American journalist Peter Theo Curtis last month, whom the front had been holding hostage since 2012. (T/P001/P3)
Mi’raj Islamic News Agency (MINA)