The United Nations says it has withdrawn its peacekeepers from many positions on the Golan Heights because of escalating fighting between government forces and opposition fighters.

U.N. deputy spokesman Farhan Haq told The Associated Press on Monday that he doesn't think every single post has been vacated.

"But obviously the situation has deteriorated across a wide span of the territory so we've had to leave from a lot of places," he said.

The 1,200-strong U.N. force has patrolled a buffer zone between Syria and Israel since 1974. It has increasingly been caught in the spillover from Syria's civil war.

The U.N. peacekeepers have been moved to the Israeli side of the border. Al-Qaida-linked militants last week released 45 Fijian peacekeepers they had captured in Syria and held for two weeks.