“The rebels contend that the peacekeepers entered a Syrian village near the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights, an area where peacekeepers should not be and where intense fighting has been raging for days between rebels and government forces.
The rebels say they suspect the peacekeepers were trying to aid their enemy, which is defending the regime of President Bashar al-Assad.
The United Nations confirmed the peacekeepers’ detention and explained that the peacekeepers were on a “regular supply mission.” The U.N. offered no further details of that mission but said it is “dispatching a team to assess the situation and attempt a resolution.”
There are two videos rebels posted on YouTube that present the rebels’ point of view.
In one, a rebel insists that the peacekeepers will be held until al-Assad’s forces withdraw from the village of al-Jamlah, where there has been heavy fighting.
The other video shows rebels walking near several U.N. trucks.
“Six UN peacekeepers detained by Syrian fighters on Wednesday are safe, according to footage released by the activists. The video – which shows six men lined up in their uniforms – did not include information on the remaining 15 hostages.
The 21 Filipino UN peacekeepers were captured by Syrian rebels in Golan Heights. However, one of the men in the footage – who identified himself as a captain in the UN Filipino battalion – said that he and his men are in “a safe place.”
He said that the group had been rescued by “civilian people” during bombing and artillery fire near a United Nations observation post close to the village of Jamla.
“Civilian people helped us for our safety and distributed us in different places to keep us safe. They gave us good accommodation and gave us food to eat and water to drink,” he said.
The video was released by the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which says it has been speaking“directly” to a spokesperson for the Yarmouk Brigades – the group of rebels which captured the peacekeepers.
A spokesman for the observatory said on Thursday that the captors “assured us they are not going to harm the hostages in any way and they’re treating them as guests.” The activist group says the insurgents are pushing for government forces to pull back heavy weaponry and allow villagers to return to villages they have fled because of recent fighting.
Earlier Thursday, the Philippines’ foreign ministry issued a statement on the kidnapping, saying that the detention of the Filipino peacekeepers violates international law.
“The Philippines is working very closely with the UN, the US, the UK, France, and Germany for the early and safe release of the peacekeepers,” Philippines Foreign Affairs Spokesperson Raul Hernandez said in a statement.
Twenty-one Filipino UN peacekeepers were detained in Golan Heights on Wednesday. The UN and Arab League officials are reportedly negotiating with the Syrian rebels.