UN reached agreement to secure release of peacekeepers
The UN said Friday it had reached an agreement on the release of 21 peacekeepers held by armed elements of the Syrian opposition, DPA reported.
UN representatives are already with the 21 men, most of whom are from the Philippines, a UN spokesman said in New York. The agreement was reached "with all parties," the official said.
The opposition Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the peacekeepers would be released on Saturday between 10 am (GMT 0800) and 12 pm. The observatory, based in Britain, said a ceasefire would be implemented in the region during the operation.
The UN Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) representative, Josephine Guerrero, said the operation nearly took place on Friday after arrangements were made for the release of the peacekeepers.
"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," Guerrero said.
Earlier Friday Herve Ladsous, under-secretary general for peacekeeping operations, briefed the UN Security Council on the status of efforts to free the Filipinos, who he said were "apparently safe."
The men are being held in four or five different locations in the Syrian town of Jamlah, which has been subjected to intense shelling by the Syrian army in recent days.
The group was detained near the Golan Heights in a border area between Syria and Israel by the Al Yarmouk Martyrs Brigade, which took responsibility for the kidnapping on Wednesday. It is the first time international peacekeepers have been drawn into the 2-year-old Syrian conflict.
They are part of the Philippines' 333-strong contingent that in November joined peacekeepers enforcing a ceasefire in the Israeli-occupied Golan.
Some of them have appeared in a video posted on YouTube in which they said they were safe and were being treated well by the rebels.
Syria's UN ambassador, Bashar Jaafari, rejected the accusation that government forces had shelled the area where the Philippine peacekeepers are being held.
The shelling targeted the suburbs of the villages where the armed groups are concentrated, he said, according to Voice of America.