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 (UNDOF) in the Golan Heights, were detained on 25 June at Israel’s border with Jordan.
Israel’s Tax Authority and police said at the time that 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 said last week.
Authorities in Suva have confirmed the soldiers were serving in the Fiji Battalion of the UN force.
Their remand was extended once last 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.
The kits, which contained multiple bottles with liquids, prompted a police sniffing dog to react in a way that substantiated the suspicions, according to a joint statement from police and the Tax Authority at the time.
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.