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By Christine Mai-Duc, Los Angeles Times

The United Nations says 43 of its peacekeepers were detained Thursday in the Golan Heights near the border of Syria and Israel, a day after Syrian rebels overtook a crossing into Israeli-annexed territory.

The world body said in a statement that peacekeepers with the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force were taken after a period of increased conflict that started Wednesday between “armed elements” and the Syrian army.

The troops were detained by “an armed group” on the Syrian side of the Golan Heights near Al Qunaytirah, the statement said. Another 81 peacekeepers were being restricted to their positions in the areas of Ar Ruwayhinah and Burayqah.

“The United Nations is making every effort to secure the release of the detained peacekeepers, and to restore the full freedom of movement of the force throughout its area of operation,” the statement said.

U.N. troops have monitored the buffer zone between Syria and the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights since 1974. As of July 31, 1,223 peacekeepers from six countries are in the region monitoring the situation.

This is not the first time U.N. troops have been detained in the region. In May 2013, four peacekeepers were held by Syrian opposition forces. They were released five days later.

AFP Photo/Jack Guez

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