Syrian rebels offer kidnapped peacekeepers to Red Cross | News | DW | 08.03.2013
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Syrian rebels offer kidnapped peacekeepers to Red Cross

Syrian opposition members have said they will release the 21 UN peacekeepers they took in the Golan Heights. However, the handover comes under the condition that the Red Cross escorts the detainees to a safe area.

The Filipino government confirmed the offer by Syrian rebels on Friday. The group of UN peacekeeping soldiers captured in the Golan Heights all originated from the Philippines.

"The Syrian opposition forces are willing to release the peacekeepers," Philippines military spokesperson Colonel Arnulfo Burgos told reporters in Manila.

The kidnappers set the condition of procuring an International Committee of the Red Cross escort for the detainees out of Golan Heights in order to ensure "a safer ground."

"Hopefully they will really be released and we are also waiting for that," said Burgos.

About 30 armed fighters from the Yarmuk Martyrs Brigade stopped and detained the peacekeeping unit mid-week. Soon after, they released two videos, both of which were distributed by the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, claiming the capture. The rebels were demanding that the regime forces withdraw from a village called Jamla.

Initial reports did not indicate whether the kidnappers had set any other conditions for the safe release of the peacekeeping forces.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon joined the Philippines in condemning the kidnapping, saying that "freedom of movement and safety and security must be respected by all parties."

The unit is part of the UN's Disengagement Force (UNDOF), tasked with monitoring a 1974 peace treaty between Israel and Syria. Israel captured the Golan Heights from Syria in the 1967 "Six-Day War." Syrian troops are not allowed to operate there under the treaty.

kms/lw (AP, AFP, dpa)

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