UN to Negotiate With Islamist Rebels in Syria, Reports Say

Al-Qaida-linked Nusra Front is willing to release 44 peacekeepers in return for humanitarian assistance, Arab media reports.


The UN has appointed representatives to negotiate with the Islamist rebels who are holding a contingent of 44 UN peacekeepers from Fiji in the Syrian Golan Heights, Arab media reported on Monday.

On Sunday, the Al-Qaida-linked Nusra Front said it had seized the peacekeepers in retaliation for alleged "UN collusion" with the Syrian government, On Monday, the rebels said they were willing to release the peacekeepers in exchange for humanitarian aid to areas besieged by Bashar Assad's forces around Damascus.

More than 70 Philippine troops trapped by Islamists in a different area on the Syrian side of the frontier were extracted to safety over the weekend. Nusra Front militants said Sunday that It had released some 35 Filipino UN peacekeepers, conflicting reports that the peacekeepers had managed to escape the post under the cover of darkness.

Meanwhile, heavy fighting between Syrian army forces and the rebels erupted on the Golan Heights on Monday. A mortar shell, apparently errant fire from the fighting in Syria, fell on on the Israeli side of the border fence, in Ein Zivan, a kibbutz located in the northen Golan Heights. No damage was reported.

On Sunday, Israel's military said it shot down a drone that flew from Syria into Israeli-controlled airspace over the Golan.