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Syrian hostage crisis: All 21 UN peacekeepers freed, arrive safe in Amman

Last Updated: Sunday, March 10, 2013 - 00:42

Zeenews Bureau

Amman: Syrian rebels on the Golan Heights on Saturday released the 21 Filipino peacekeepers they had held hostage for past three days.

The move to release the 21-member-team of the UN Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) was welcomed by both United Nations and Philippine authorities.

A Jordanian military official was quoted by agencies as saying that the peacekeepers were greeted by border guards as they crossed from Syria over to Jordan in the afternoon and "underwent medical examinations."

The official statement by the Jordanian authorities added that the freed hostages were "handed over to the UN representative in Jordan Costanza Farina in the presence of the Philippines ambassador."

Earlier on Saturday clashes between Syrian rebels and regime forces had erupted near the village where UN peacekeepers are being held hostage, thereby complicating efforts to free them.

UN officials said that rescue missions had been aborted because of regime shelling in the area.

The UN force has been monitoring an Israeli-Syrian ceasefire for four decades without incident, and their abduction added another destabilising twist to Syria`s civil war.

The Filipino peacekeepers, who were taken on Wednesday, were being held in the basements of several houses in the village of Jamlah, near the Israeli-controlled Golan Heights.

The peacekeepers were taken by a rebel group calling itself the Martyrs of the Yarmouk Brigades. In the days leading up to the abduction, rebel fighters had overrun several Syrian military checkpoints in the area, and regime forces responded with shelling attacks.

Rebels had initially said they would only release the hostages if Syrian forces withdraw from the area.

However, Rami Abdul-Rahman of the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, an activist group, said the rebels apparently dropped that demand.

With Agency Inputs

First Published: Sunday, March 10, 2013 - 00:42

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