Philippines: Syrian rebels want to release troops

Published on NewsOK Modified: March 7, 2013 at 8:28 pm •  Published: March 7, 2013

MANILA, Philippines (AP) — Syrian rebels who seized 21 Filipino U.N. peacekeepers in the Golan Heights want the Red Cross to escort them out of the area because of fighting with Syrian government forces, the Philippine military said Friday.

The 21 peacekeepers were seized Wednesday near the Syrian village of Jamlah, just a mile from the Israeli-controlled Golan Heights in an area where the U.N. force had patrolled a cease-fire line between Israel and Syria without incident for nearly four decades.

Philippine military spokesman Col. Arnulfo Marcelo Burgos said that the rebels were willing to release the peacekeepers, and asked for the International Committee of the Red Cross to escort them to a safe area.

According to Burgos, the rebels said the peacekeepers have to be removed because there was heavy fighting in the area.

He said the information came from the U.N. command in the Golan Heights, which was negotiating for the release of the peacekeepers.

"They want the ICRC to pick them up and escort them," Burgos said. "Hopefully they will really be released and we are also waiting for that."