Israel says shoots down drone over Golan Heights

GOLAN HEIGHTS Sun Aug 31, 2014 9:31am EDT

GOLAN HEIGHTS (Reuters) - Israel's military said it shot down a drone that flew from Syria into Israeli-controlled airspace over the Golan Heights on Sunday.

It was not immediately clear who dispatched the unmanned aircraft or the nature of its mission, in an area where fighting from Syria's civil war has occasionally spilled over into Israeli-held territory.

In a statement, the military said the drone was downed by a Patriot missile near the Quneitra border crossing between the Israeli-held Golan Heights and Syria.

Rebels of al Qaeda-linked Nusra Front have been battling the Syrian army in the area and have wrested control of the crossing at Quneitra, which is operated by the United Nations.

A contingent of 44 U.N. peacekeepers from Fiji was detained on the Syrian side of the Golan Heights by Islamist militants on Thursday, and the head of the Fijian army said on Sunday negotiations for their release are being pursued.

More than 70 Philippine troops trapped by Islamists in a different area of the frontier are now safe, the United Nations and authorities in Manila said.

Israel captured the Golan Heights in the 1967 Middle East war and beefed up defenses in the area since the outbreak of the Syrian civil war more than three years ago. Shelling from that conflict has hit Israeli-controlled territory.

(Reporting by Baz Ratner, Ari Rabinovitch; Editing by Jeffrey Heller and Rosalind Russell)