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Philippines Demand Release Of UN Peacekeepers In Syria



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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Migrant Lives

They Migrated From Chiapas When Opportunities Dried Up, Orchids Brought Them Home

An orchid rehabilitation project is turning a small Mexican community into a tourist magnet — and attracting far-flung locals back to their hometown.

They Migrated From Chiapas When Opportunities Dried Up, Orchids Brought Them Home

Marcos Aguilar Pérez takes care of orchids rescued from the rainforest in his backyard in Santa Rita Las Flores, Mapastepec, Chiapas, Mexico.

Adriana Alcázar González/GPJ Mexico
Adriana Alcázar González

MAPASTEPEC — Sweat cascades down Candelaria Salas Gómez’s forehead as she separates the bulbs of one of the orchids she and the other members of the Santa Rita Las Flores Community Ecotourism group have rescued from the rainforest. The group houses and protects over 1,000 orchids recovered from El Triunfo Biosphere Reserve, in the southeastern Mexican state of Chiapas, after powerful storms.

“When the storms and heavy rains end, we climb to the vicinity of the mountains and collect the orchids that have fallen from the trees. We bring them to Santa Rita, care for them, and build their strength to reintegrate them into the reserve later,” says Salas Gómez, 32, as she attaches an orchid to a clay base to help it recover.

Like magnets, the orchids of Santa Rita have exerted a pull on those who have migrated from the area due to lack of opportunity. After years away from home, Salas Gómez was one of those who returned, attracted by the community venture to rescue these flowers and exhibit them as a tourist attraction, which provides residents with an adequate income.

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