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GUARDIAN, SYRIAN OBSERVATORY FOR HUMAN RIGHTS, JERUSALEM POST

Worldcrunch

The Philippine Foreign Affairs Ministry on Thursday demanded the immediate release of 21 Filipino U.N. peacekeepers who have been taken captive by Syrian rebels.

"The main concern of the Philippine government at this time is to ensure the safety and well-being of our peacekeepers," Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario is quoted as saying by BBC News.

Raul Hernandez, spokesman for the country's foreign affairs department, called the events in Syria a "gross violation of international law."

Talks are underway for the release of the 21 U.N. observers whose four-vehicle convoy was captured near the Golan Heights in southern Syria by rebel fighters from the "Martyrs of Yarmouk" brigade.

The latter have released two videos (see below) in which they assured they would not harm the peacekeepers, but insisted government forces must pull back from the region before they are freed, according to the Jerusalem Post.

expand=1]Youtube screenshot of the video showing the "Martyrs of Yarmouk" rebel group.

The UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights quoted a spokesman for the rebel brigade as saying the convoy of peacekeepers were being held as "guests" in the village of Jamlah, about one kilometer from a ceasefire line with the Golan Heights.

A spokeswoman for the Syrian National Coalition, the main umbrella grouping of the Syrian opposition said the SNC was in "direct contact" with Free Syrian Army troops and told The Guardian: "We confirm that it's not a kidnapping operation, it's just a preventive security measure."

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