By Max Bartels
Impunity Watch Reporter, Oceania
In late August 45 Fijian soldiers acting as U.N. peacekeepers, were kidnapped by Syrian rebels on the border between Syrian and Israel known as the “Area of Separation”. The “Area of Separation” refers to a 70- Kilometer strip between the border of Israel and Syria in the Golan Heights region, which has been policed by U.N. peacekeepers since 1974. The kidnapping militants said the reason for the action was because they believed the U.N. peacekeepers were supporting the regime of Syrian President Bashar- al Assad and ignoring the plight of the Syrian people.
Military officials in Fiji released, immediately after the incident that they were in negotiations with the Syrian Militants. The Fijian military then released to the press, earlier this week that they had secured the released of their soldiers from the Syrians, who have been identified as the Nursa Front, without any demands or conditions. They then immediately tried to retract their statements, but the reason for this is still unknown. The U.N. never reported any such progress with the negations for the release of the Fijian solders. The Associated Press reported that it would be unlikely that the U.N. gave permission for Fiji to release that their soldiers would be coming home, as the U.N. usually doesn’t release information on hostage matters until it is completely resolved.
After Fiji prematurely released their statements the Syrian militants posted a video of the captured soldiers on their Twitter and YouTube accounts of the soldiers saying they were being treated well and expected to be released soon. The Fijian government then reported again that the Syrians had dropped all demands and conditions and that the soldiers were to be released. This time the statements were not premature, after the videos were posted the Fijian soldiers were released on the Syrian side of the border. The soldiers were made to walk through the border crossing to the Israeli controlled territory. They were reported to be in good condition and were sent to receive medical treatment in Israel before being able to return home to Fiji. Fiji’s presidential candidate Frank Bainimarama called the Fijian soldiers heroes, to be able to keep their cool under such extreme circumstances. He further stated that it was the discipline of his troops that kept any militants and any U.N. forces from being killed throughout the incident. Many nations have now pulled out their military contingents from U.N. peacekeeping operations in the Golan Heights out of concern that the war in Syria will spill over the border.
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