About 20 UN peacekeeping troops from the Philippines were detained by Syrian militants near the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights March 6. The peacekpeers were monitoring the ceasefire between Syria and Israel. A group calling itself the Martyrs of Yarmouk told BBC News they had taken the troops to stop Syrian forces from shelling them. The name of the militant group seems to invoke either the Palestinian refugee camp in Damascus which was bombarded by Assad's forces last year, or the 638 CE Battle of Yarmouk in which the Holy Land first fell to the Muslims—or perhaps both. The abductions come as Israel protested to the UN Security Council about shells from Syria landing in its territory. "Israel cannot be expected to stand idle as the lives of its citizens are being put at risk by the Syrian government's reckless actions," ambassador Ron Prosor wrote. "Israel has shown maximum restraint thus far." (Reuters, March 5) He did not make clear if the shells landed in Israel proper or the Golan Heights, which are not internationally recognized as Israeli territory.
In Damascus, Shi'ite militants from Iraq and Lebanon have joined Syrian Shi'ite fighters to defend the Saydah Zeinab shrine, which they say is threatened by Sunni rebels. Hundreds of Shi'ites protested near the shrine dedicated to Hadrat Zainab, daughter of Imam Ali, the first Shi'ite Imam. The Abu al-Fadl al-Abbas brigade, named for a martyred son of Imam Ali, has been formed to defend Shi'ite holy sites in Syria. (Daily Star, Lebanon, Ahlul Bayt News Agency, Iran, March 4)