PH peacekeepers still kept by Syria rebels
BEIRUT, Lebanon - A group of 21 Filipino United Nations (UN) peacekeepers seized by Syrian rebels in the Golan were still being held on Saturday, March 9, after the deadline for their release lapsed, a watchdog said.
"There is nothing new. They have still not been freed, even though the rebels insist they are ready to free them at any moment," said Syrian Observatory for Human Rights director Rami Abdel Rahman, who was in contact with the kidnappers.
Earlier, Abdel Rahman said a Red Cross team was preparing to enter the village of Jamla, adding that the situation there was "calm, with no shelling or fighting."
The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in Geneva told Rappler that at the moment, it is still waiting for further information from its team in Syria.
The ICRC committed to facilitate the release of the peacekeepers being held captive by Syrian rebels.
The ICRC earlier received an official request from Syrian opposition representatives to receive the group seized by Syrian rebels.
On Friday, March 8, Rahman said an agreement had been reached between the Syrian regime and the UN for a cessation of hostilities between 0800 and 1000 GMT on Saturday to allow a Red Cross team to evacuate the 21 peacekeepers.
The agreement came after the failure of an earlier planned handover, with a UN convoy that had entered Jamla to pick up the group pulling out when the Syrian army shelled the area.
The situation in Jamla was calm early on Saturday, but by the end of the morning, "fighting broke out between rebels and soldiers, when the insurgents attacked an army unit in Aabdine, 3 kilometers (two miles) south of Jamla," Abdel Rahman told AFP.
The Filipinos, members of the UN Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) monitoring the armistice line between Syria and Israel that followed the 1973 Arab-Israeli war, were abducted just a mile to the Syrian side of the line on Wednesday.
The rebels have demanded that Syrian troops move 20 kilometers (12 miles) back from Jamla. - With reports from Voltaire Tupaz/Rappler.com