PH peacekeepers move closer to freedom
BEIRUT, Lebanon (UPDATED) - Twenty-one UN peacekeepers seized by rebels on the Syrian Golan were being taken on Saturday, March 9, to the border with Jordan where they will be freed, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights watchdog said.
"The peacekeepers have been transferred from the (Golan) village of Jamla, where they were held, towards the Yarmuk valley on the frontier with Jordan ahead of their release," said Observatory director Rami Abdel Rahman, who is in contact with the abductors.
He was unable to say exactly when the 21 Filipinos from the UN Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) would be freed, or whether they would be handed over to the Jordanian authorities, the United Nations, or the Red Cross.
The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) earlier said it will facilitate the release of the peacekeepers being held captive by Syrian rebels.
"We confirmed to the Syrian opposition representatives our readiness to play the role of a neutral intermediary in the framework of the kidnapping of the (UN peacekeepers), provided that all the parties concerned agree," Cynthia Lee, spokesperson of the ICRC in the Philippines, said.
Sought for comment, Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) spokesman Raul Hernandez said the Philippine government has not yet received official word on the progress of negotiations for the release of the Filipino peacekeepers.
On Wednesday, March 6, the rebel Yarmuk Martyrs brigade claimed the capture of the Filipino soldiers.
The rebels said they would hold them until troops loyal to President Bashar al-Assad withdrew from the area of Jamla, which lies east of the ceasefire line with Israel.
On Friday, the rebels called for a ceasefire, to allow the evacuation of the peacekeepers.
In a statement, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon earlier called for the "immediate" release of the hostages and demanded that the Syrian government and rebels respect "UNDOF's freedom of movement and security." - With reports from Voltaire Tupaz/Rappler.com