UN peacekeepers ordered to pull back from Syrian Golan

The United Nations has pulled back its peacekeepers in the Golan to the Israeli side after Syrian fighters advanced near their positions, a UN spokesman said Monday.

United Nations: The United Nations has pulled back its peacekeepers in the Golan to the Israeli side after Syrian fighters advanced near their positions, a UN spokesman said Monday.

The Syrian armed groups posed "a direct threat to the safety and security" of the troops from the UN Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF), said UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric.

"All the UN personnel in these positions have thus been relocated to the Alpha side," said Dujarric, referring to the Israeli-occupied sector.

The order came after Syrian rebels including al Qaeda affiliate Al-Nusra Front seized 45 Fijian UNDOF troops in late August before releasing them two weeks later.

They also clashed with 75 Filipino members of the force, who eventually fled a nearby outpost.

The UN spokesman said that the situation on the Syrian side of the Golan "has deteriorated severely over the last several days" and that "armed groups have made advances in the area of UNDOF positions."

An AFP correspondent reported earlier that hundreds of UN troops withdrew from the Syrian side to the Israeli-occupied sector of the Golan, crossing in a UN convoy.

Six countries contribute troops to the 1,200-strong UN force on the Golan: Fiji, India, Ireland, Nepal, the Netherlands and the Philippines.

"UNDOF continues to use all available assets to carry out its mandated tasks in this exceptionally challenging environment," added the spokesman.

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