Israel releases three Fijian UN Peacekeepers after clearing them of drug charges

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Israel has released three Fijian UN peacekeepers arrested for drug smuggling, after it emerged the suspicious substance they were carrying across the border was not liquid cocaine, police said Sunday.

The three soldiers, serving with the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force in the Golan Heights, were detained on June 25 at Israel’s border with Jordan.

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Israel’s Tax Authority and police said at the time they were stopped during a routine inspection at the Jordan River Crossing, also known as Sheikh Hussein Bridge.

Suspicions were raised about perfume-making kits that members of the group were allegedly carrying and “which included bottles with liquid cocaine”, the Israeli statement last week said.

Authorities in Suva have confirmed the soldiers were serving in the Fiji Battalion of the UN force.

Their remand was extended once on Wednesday, but on Friday they were released from custody “after it turned out that the substance in the bottles was not drugs,” a police spokesman told AFP.

Israel captured the Golan Heights from Syria during the 1967 Six-Day War and later annexed the territory in a move not recognised by the United Nations.

In 1974, a UN force was dispatched to a buffer zone and tasked with monitoring a ceasefire.

Today, the force includes about 1,000 troops from a dozen nations, including Fiji, Argentina, Ireland and Nepal.

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