WASHINGTON, March 7 (Xinhua) -- The United States on Thursday called for "unconditional and immediate" release of UN peacekeepers by a Syrian rebel group.
"My understanding is that they are still in the custody of rebel forces," State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland told reporters at a regular press briefing.
"We have been conveying extremely strong messages to the Syrian opposition that this is absolutely unacceptable, and we demand their unconditional and immediate release," she said, adding "We are continuing those representations. This is not the appropriate way to deal with the difficulties in Syria."
Twenty-one Philippine peacekeepers serving with the UN Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) were detained on Wednesday by a group of Syrian militants, identified by Nuland as from the Martyrs of Yarmouk.
The incident happened on the Syrian side of the Golan Heights delimitation line between Syria and Israel. The UN Security Council created the UNDOF in May 1974 after fighting broke out between Israel and Syria in the Golan Heights region.
The Security Council issued a statement on Wednesday "strongly" condemning the detention.
Nuland said Washington wanted to see the peacekeepers turned over to the Red Cross immediately, as claimed by the head of the Syrian opposition coalition.