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February 26, 2013

U.N. staffer missing from Syria-Israel border said to be Canadian adviser with peacekeepers

http://www.jewishjournal.com/israel/article/u.n._staffer_missing_from_syria_israel_border_said_to_be_canadian_adviser_w

A man uses a pair of binoculars as he looks towards Syria from part of an abandoned military outpost near the Druze village of Buqata in the Golan Heights in this July 24, 2012 file photo. Photo by REUTERS/Nir Elias/Files

A man uses a pair of binoculars as he looks towards Syria from part of an abandoned military outpost near the Druze village of Buqata in the Golan Heights in this July 24, 2012 file photo. Photo by REUTERS/Nir Elias/Files

A United Nations staffer who went missing along the Syria-Israel border is a Canadian legal adviser to the commander of the U.N. mission on the Golan Heights, a source who says he met with the missing man told JTA.

Media reports have identified the missing staff member as a legal adviser to the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force. The United Nations has confirmed a member is missing from the peacekeeping force.

"We can confirm that a staff member is not accounted for and we are in touch with the relevant parties to determine what has happened," U.N. deputy spokesman Eduardo del Buey said Monday.

The source familiar with the missing staff member told JTA he had met with the man, who he identified as Carl Campeau, in Israel recently and that Campeau is a Canadian civilian staffer unaffiliated with the Canadian government.  The source, who requested anonymity, also told JTA that Campeau might hold dual Canadian-Austrian citizenship, as Campeau said his son was Austrian.

Campeau discussed the security situation of the U.N. observer force with the source at length during his visit, the source said, and said it was a serious concern to the peacekeeping mission.

The Times of Israel reported Monday that Syrian rebels had taken control of the entire Syrian side of the border with Israel, except for the Quneitra border crossing. The rebels are wary of taking the border crossing due to the political ramifications, the news website reported.

A correspondent with the Sunday Times of London in Damascus reported on Twitter that Campeau was kidnapped six days ago by what sources said were "criminal gangs."

Reached by email late Monday night, a spokeswoman for the Canadian Department of Foreign Affairs told JTA that Canada was aware a member of the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force mission was unaccounted for in Syria, but would not say whether the staffer was Canadian.

"We are in contact with appropriate parties to gather additional information," spokeswoman Amanda Reid said.

The Canadians pulled out of the peacekeeping force in 2006, leaving two officers for logistical support. The number of officers was later upgraded to three. But according to media reports last fall, the Canadians withdrew their remaining officers from the force in September as the fighting in Syria spilled into the demilitarized zone along the border.

The peacekeeping mission has operated on the border between Syria and the Golan Heights since 1974, following the Yom Kippur War in 1973.

The U.N. force has approximately 1,150 members; the peacekeeping soldiers come from Austria, Croatia, India, Japan and the Philippines.

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