8 March 2013, 14:01

UN Filipino peacekeepers still unreleased by Syrian militants (AUDIO, VIDEO)

UN Filipino peacekeepers still unreleased by Syrian militants (AUDIO, VIDEO)

Syrian militants have still failed to release the UN Filipino peacekeepers in the Golan Heights area, according to an official of the Philippine Foreign Ministry.

He said the rebel fighters were expected to set free the 21 Filipino peacekeepers they had taken prisoner earlier.

But the militants have warned again they will not release the captives until the army pulls out of the Jamla built-up area.

On Wednesday morning, a Filipino convoy was detained in the demilitarized area, where the Syrian opposition and Damascus government troops were engaged in bitter fighting last weekend.

The militants put on the Internet a video shortly afterwards to identify themselves as part of the Yarmouk Martyrs Brigades.

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The Yarmouk Martyrs Brigade says that if the Syrian Government forces do not withdraw from the nearby village of Jamla, the 21 seized United Nations peacekeepers will be treated as prisoners. The peacekeepers were part of the United Nations force that monitors the ceasefire line between Syria and Israel which captured and annexed the Golan Heights in 1974.

However, this afternoon and video emerged purporting to show several of the Filipino peacekeepers and a man who identified himself as a Filipino captain said his UN convoy had stopped in Jamla because of bombing and artillery, and his team had been given food and shelter by local residents. 

“We are here safe in this place. We are here because while we were passing through from our opposition to Jamla there were bombings and artillery fires. That’s why we stopped and the civilian people helped us for our safety and distributed as in different places to keep us safe. And they gave as good accommodation and gave us food to eat and water to drink. “ 

In a video posted on YouTube Yarmouk Martyrs Brigade spokesman Abu Kaid al-Faleh accused the UN of being the agents for Israel and of driving Free Syrian Army troops out of the area so the Syrian Government troops could enter. 

“The United Nations and all of the European countries and Bashar al-Assad are agents for Israel. They want to drive out the FSA from this country, our country, and allow the forces of the tyrant Bashar al-Assad to stay here because he is an agent for Zionism and Israel, and the United States.” 

The Yarmouk Martyrs Brigade said today on their Facebook page that the Syrian Government was attacking the Jamla area, and said it would hold the army responsible if the hostages, which include 3 officers and 18 enlisted personnel were harmed. 

Meanwhile, the Filipino Foreign Ministry spokesperson Raul Hernandez said the Filipino Government is working closely with the UN, the US, the UK, France and Germany for the quick and safe release of the peacekeepers.

“The apprehension and illegal detention of the Filipino peacekeepers is a gross violation of the international law. The Filipino peacekeepers are operating under the UN flag. Accordingly, this Filipinos are international personnel tooled with immunity and mental protection similar to the diplomatic agents and personnel. These rights are inviolable and their transgression is punishable under the international law.”

 

The UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has denounced the kidnapping as has Russia’s UN Ambassador Vitaly Churkin who currently holds the presidency of the UN Security Council. 

A UN Commander, the Free Syrian Army – the main grouping of rebel fighters, and the Syrian National Coalition - their umbrella opposition body that is backed by the Western states, all say they are negotiating with The Yarmouk Martyrs. The Free Syrian Army has also condemned the kidnapping. 

But Andrey Baklitskiy - Project Director at the Russian Centre for Policy Studies, says that damage to the Syrian opposition has been done. 

“They are sort of reversing the picture by making Bashar Assad supporter of the United Nations and making the international community to apply to Bashar Assad as to the legitimate power in the country to deal with these armed groups. So this is actually the very thing that Bashar Assad would like to happen more and more to show that the opposition is nothing and that they can’t go far. Criminals or terrorists, basically bad Syrian opposition is sort of good for Bashar Assad. And it is also shown that the situation is spinning out of control because there are a lot of groups whom no one actually controls.” 

Yesterday Britain’s Foreign Secretary William Hague announced £13 million of direct nonlethal aid to Syrian rebel fighters, which is to include armed cars and body armour, as well as security training for any transitional period, and to maintain stability in rebel controlled areas. 

Meanwhile, the Human Rights Watch says it is investigating whether the Yarmouk Martyrs Brigades were involved in executions of captured Syrian Government soldiers in another incident near Jamla several days ago.

And the Syrian Government says it has found an Israeli spy camera monitoring a sensitive site on its Mediterranean coast.

Voice of Russia, TASS

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