21 Filipino peacekeepers, after being abducted by Syrian rebels for 3 days were set free on Saturday
Together with the release of the members of the UN Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF), they were welcomed by the United Nations and the Philippine authorities
The peacekeepers were greeted by border guards while crossing from Syria in the afternoon, then boarded an army truck with military escort, and handed over to UN representative in Jordan Costanza Farina, in the presence of the Philippine ambassador , after undergoing medical examination, a Jordanian military official said.
Jordanian Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh, government spokesman Samih Maaytah and Chief of Staff Mashaal al-Zebn were likewise there to greet the peacekeepers, said an AFP correspondent.
The UNDOF, of which the peacekeepers are members, is monitoring the armistice line between Syria and Israel that followed the 1973 Arab-Israeli war.
A video footage of the peacekeepers as they were set free was released by the rebels, the report said.
The Filipinos were seized by rebels Wednesday near the armistice line in the first abduction of its kind since the the start of an uprising against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad two years ago.
U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon also appreciates the efforts of all concerned to secure their safe release, his office in New York said
The UN secretary general emphasizes the impartiality of United Nations peacekeepers, it added.
The Philippine military spokesman told AFP no decision had been taken about where the peacekeepers would go next.
But Manila’s envoy to Amman will be coordinating with the Jordanian authorities for their turnover to us, said the spokesman.
Peacekeeping contingent commander, Colonel Cirilito Sobejana is now on his way to Jordan to meet his men, said Manila Colonel Arnulfo Burgos.
Ambassador Olivia V Palala told AFP all the men were “safe and sound” and that future plans for them would be made in coordination with the United Nations.
Foreign Minister Judeh assured Ban by telephone that the peacekeepers will be safe and Jordan will provide them with all the assistance they need.
The peacekeepers were abducted by rebels from the Yarmuk Martyrs Brigade in Jamla village just a mile to the Syrian side of the armistice line.
The rebels had made conditions for their release, namely that Syrian troops move 20 kilometers back from Jamla.
They also demanded that International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) guarantees the safe exit of civilians from the strife-torn area of Jamla, said the head of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) Rami Abdel Rahman.
On Friday, a U.N. attempt to pick up the peacekeepers failed when Syrian troops shelled the area.
Syria denied the shelling. The foreign ministry sent letters to Ban and the U.N. Security Council on Saturday, condemning attacks by terrorist groups against U.N. forces and residents near the armistice line, state news agency SANA said.
World powers condemned the abduction and made diplomatic action to secure the peacekeepers’ release.
Fears that more governments would withdraw their contingents from the already depleted U.N. mission were expressed.
Israel warned that reduction in UNDOF strength would create a security vacuum between the two sides on the strategic Golan plateau, which it seized in the 1967 Six-Day War.
On Saturday, Syrian troops bombarded several rebel-held areas near Damascus, where 10 people, including three children, were killed in clashes between troops and rebels, the Observatory said.
49 people were killed across Syria on Saturday, the Observatory added.
A brother of one of the 21 peacekeepers who aired an appeal to the Syrian rebel abductors for the release of the peacekeepers, is now happy and so with the relatives of all the peacekeepers over this good news. A soldier himself 2nd Lt. Xy-son through a nationally televised press confab at their military headquarters, appealed earlier to the Syrian rebels to set free all 21 Filipino peacekeepers, including his elder brother, Capt. Xy-rus Meneses who’s the pride of the family for being a Philippine Military Academy graduate and chosen to be part of the UN peacekeeping contingent last year.
U.N. peacekeepers seized in Syria released
Brother appeals for release …