Deal reached for release of UN peacekeepers kidnapped by Syrian rebels | Middle East| News and analysis of events in the Arab world | DW | 08.03.2013
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Middle East

Deal reached for release of UN peacekeepers kidnapped by Syrian rebels

An agreement has been reached to enable the release of 21 peacekeepers taken hostage in Syria earlier this week, officials say. The deal includes a brief ceasefire to allow for the safe release of the men.

The peacekeepers kidnapped in Syria on Wednesday are due to be released on Saturday, officials have said.

The 21 men, part of the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF), which monitors a ceasefire line between Syria and Israel in the Golan Heights, were kidnapped by the Martyrs of Yarmouk rebel brigade.

The UN announced on Friday that an agreement had been reached to secure the release of the peacekeepers, most of whom are Filipino, who had been near the ceasefire line when they were taken.

Awaiting the light

Although the release plan was in place on Friday, the operation was delayed by darkness, officials said.

"UNDOF dispatched a team to the location but due to the late hour and the darkness it was considered unsafe to continue the operation. Efforts will continue tomorrow," UN Disengagement Observer Force representative Josephine Guerrero said.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, based in a Britain, said the kidnapped men would be released on Saturday morning during a two-hour ceasefire window.   

UN peacekeeping chief Herve Ladsous said the detainees were being held in the basements of houses in the village of Jamla, near the Golan Heights, an area subjected to intense shelling by Syrian President Bashar Assad's troops.

Regional stability fears

Syria's nearly two-year civil war has threatened the stability of the region with violence near the Golan Heights ceasefire line, as well as the borders with Lebanon, Iraq and Jordan.

The kidnapping sent a scary message to both the UN mission and Israel with regard to potential spillover from the Syrian conflict.

This marked the first time international peacekeepers have been targeted in the Syrian conflict.

tm/pfd (dpa, Reuters)