Al-Qaida linked Syrian rebels battled U.N. military peacekeepers Saturday in the Golan Heights, forcing some of the international troops to flee into Israeli territory to escape being captured by the group known as the Nusra Front.
Nusra Front militants surrounded several encampments in the disputed territory laying between Syria and Israel and exchanged gunfire with one encampment manned by Filipino soldiers attached to the U.N. force. Several of the encampments fled before engaging in combat with the Islamic radicals.
None of the 40 Filipino peacekeepers battling Nusra fighters were reported to have been injured in the clashes, according to the Associated Press. One encampment surrounded by the Nusra Front was called to surrender by the Sunni Muslim fighters.
One base was able to evacuate due to the aid of an emergency of a U.N. Irish battalion. The same battalion also helped extract peacekeepers from a threatened base Friday night as well. An anonymous Israeli spokesman told the AP that some of these U.N. troops retreated to territory belonging to Israel.
On Wednesday, Islamist rebels from Syria overran one U.N. crossing in the area and captured 44 Fijian military personnel. U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon condemned the Syrian rebels’ capture of the Fijian peacekeepers and demanded their immediate release.
It is unclear which Syrian rebel group is holding the Fijians, but it is believed that the al-Qaida-backed Nusra Front is the group detaining them. Recently, the group has taken up the practice of hostage taking to fund its activities. They were also the group that held and released American journalist Peter Theo Curtis.
The Nusra Front is officially recognized by al-Qaida and has been involved in deadly fighting with the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) over internal disputes in Syria. ISIS was disavowed by al-Qaida chief Ayman al-Zawahari due to its fighting with the Nusra Front.