Pinoy peacekeepers now out of Syria-A A +A
Saturday, March 9, 2013
BEIRUT — Two officials monitoring the Syrian border said United Nations (UN) peacekeepers held by Syrian rebels for four days have begun crossing into Jordan.
The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to brief reporters on the developments concerning the 21 Filipino peacekeepers, who were seized by Syrian rebels on Wednesday in the village of Jamlah near the Israeli-controlled Golan Heights.
The two officials said the released peacekeepers began crossing into Jordan on Saturday afternoon.
On Friday, arrangements were made with all parties for the release of 21 Filipino peacekeepers, although the operation was delayed as darkness fell, the UN said. Because of the late hour and darkness, "it was considered unsafe to continue the operation."
A team of peacekeepers was sent Friday to bring back their colleagues, said Josephine Guerrero, a spokeswoman for the UN Peacekeeping Department.
U.N. peacekeeping chief Herve Ladsous said the peacekeepers were being held in the basements of various houses in a village named Al Jamla.
Meanwhile, Bashar Ja'afari, the permanent representative of Syria to the UN, denied claims that Syrian government forces were shelling the village of Al Jamla, saying that Damascus has been committed to the release of the UN peacekeepers.
"We are even sacrificing the lives of our own soldiers in order to bring these peacekeepers safe to their headquarters," said Ja'afari.
The Security Council created UNDOF in May 1974 in the wake of the fighting between Israel and Syria in the Golan Heights region. UNDOF is mandated to maintain a ceasefire between the parties, and monitor the implementation of a Disengagement of Forces Agreement signed by both sides, which calls for an area of separation and areas of limited forces and armaments between the two parties.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and the Security Council on Wednesday strongly condemned the detention of the peacekeepers and demanded their immediate release. (AP/PNA/Sunnex)