UNITED NATIONS, March 8 (Xinhua) -- Arrangements have been made for release of all 21 of the UN peacekeepers being held in Syria near the Golan Heights, a spokeswoman for the UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations told Xinhua here Friday.
However, the Filipino members of the UN observation mission in the Golan Heights (UNDOF) taken by armed Syrian rebels on Wednesday were not expected to be released until Saturday, she said. They were all reported to be safe.
"Arrangements were made with all parties for the release of all 21 peacekeepers," Josephine Guerrero said when reached by Xinhua on the phone, quickly adding "due to late hours and darkness," efforts to free the military observers of a cease-fire between Israel and Syria were put off out of safety considerations.
Only hours earlier Friday, the UN peacekeeping chief, Herve Ladsous, said he hoped a possible brief ceasefire would enable negotiations for their release. "There is a possibility that a ceasefire of a few hours can intervene, which would allow for our people to be released."
The peacekeepers were detained by armed elements linked to the Syrian opposition on Wednesday within the area of limitation on the Syrian side of the Golan Heights.
Ladsous said that the peacekeepers were being held in the basements of various houses in a village named Al Jamla.
He added that UN officials, both in the region and at the headquarters, had been working around the clock to help the peacekeepers regain freedom.
Vitaly Churkin, Russia's permanent representative to the UN who holds the rotating presidency of the Security Council for March, said before the release announcement on Friday: "The members of the Council expressed their strong continued support for the efforts of the United Nations to have the captured UNDOF personnel released immediately."
UN hopes possible Golan ceasefire can help free peacekeepers
UNITED NATIONS, March 8 (Xinhua) -- The UN peacekeeping chief said on Friday that he hopes a possible brief ceasefire may enable the world body to negotiate the release of its peacekeepers held by Syrian rebels in the Golan Heights.
"There is a possibility that a ceasefire of a few hours can intervene, which would allow for our people to be released," Herve Ladsous told reporters after briefing the UN Security Council on Friday. Full story
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