Skip to main content

Syrian rebels free 21 U.N. peacekeepers

By Amir Ahmed, CNN
updated 4:11 PM EST, Sat March 9, 2013
Jordanian Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh greets U.N. peacekeepers after their release on the Syria-Jordan border Saturday.
Jordanian Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh greets U.N. peacekeepers after their release on the Syria-Jordan border Saturday.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: Ban Ki-moon "welcomes" the peacekeepers' release
  • Twenty-one U.N. peacekeepers are handed to Jordanian officials at border with Syria
  • Rebels initially said peacekeepers, all Filipinos, were trying to aid their enemy
  • Then they said they were just trying to keep them out of harm's way

(CNN) -- Twenty-one U.N. peacekeepers detained by Syrian rebels this week have been handed over to Jordanian authorities at the border with Syria, the Free Syrian Army told CNN Saturday.

Jordanian officials confirmed the release and added their government had no coordination nor agreement in the handover, said spokesman Samih Maaytah. Official protocol was followed, he added.

The 21 peacekeepers were turned over at the Syrian-Jordanian border at Yarmouk valley on Saturday, Free Syrian Army chief of staff General Salim Idris told CNN.

Rebels had detained the peacekeepers, identified by the Philippine government as Filipino, in a Syrian village near the Golan Heights.

Interview with Syrian Opposition Pres.
Syria opposition: U.N. peacekeepers safe
One million Syrians now refugees

Syrian opposition coalition President Moaz al-Khatib says the rebels took the peacekeepers for their own safety due to fighting there. The peacekeepers reportedly are unharmed.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon "welcomes" the release of the peacekeepers, the organization said in a statement. The peacekeepers have an impartial role, the statement said, and the secretary-general called for both sides in the conflict to respect the freedom of movement and security of his personnel.

Fighting in the area resumed in the villages near the Jordanian border following the handover, the opposition Local Coordination Committees of Syria reported.

The group reported 63 deaths across Syria on Saturday.

International tension had grown this week after about 30 Syrian rebels detained the peacekeepers and refused to let them go.

The United Nations and Filipino government demanded their release.

The consul general of Philippine embassy in Jordan confirmed the release, and said the peacekeepers were being transported to Amman.

The rebels initially said that the peacekeepers were trying to aid their enemy -- the regime of President Bashar al-Assad -- when they entered a Syrian village near the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights, an area where peacekeepers should not be and where intense fighting has been raging for days between rebels and government forces.

Al-Khatib then said the peacekeepers were taken to protect their safety and that of a U.N. convoy in an area under bombardment for seven days.

CNN's Caroline Faraj contributed to this report.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
Syrian crisis
updated 10:48 AM EDT, Tue September 9, 2014
As a 10-year-old, this boy first hit the headlines in 1982 when he saved his cat from a fire. This year, he was reported to be a suicide bomber.
updated 2:03 PM EDT, Fri September 5, 2014
Aqsa Mahmood,19, would listen to Coldplay and read Harry Potter books. Then this Glasgow girl became an ISIS bride.
updated 4:23 AM EDT, Fri August 29, 2014
The little boy looks barely old enough to walk, let alone understand the dark world he's now inhabiting.
updated 12:22 AM EDT, Fri August 29, 2014
ISIS has released video of the aftermath of a mass execution. Another video shows alleged captured Peshmerga soldiers.
updated 5:33 AM EDT, Sat August 30, 2014
The number of people who have fled Syria and registered as refugees amid the country's civil war will surpass 3 million Friday.
updated 2:49 PM EDT, Fri August 29, 2014
Douglas McAuthur McCain, 33, grew up in the Minneapolis area, but died more than 6,000 miles away in Syria, fighting for ISIS.
updated 4:54 PM EDT, Mon September 1, 2014
If the United States is serious about thoroughly defeating ISIS, it must, somehow, go through Syria.
updated 8:43 AM EDT, Thu June 26, 2014
Jihadists have kidnapped over 140 Kurdish boys to "brainwash" them. But a few boys made a daring escape.
updated 8:48 AM EDT, Thu June 26, 2014
Reports that Syrian warplanes carried out a cross-border attack on Iraqi towns is further evidence of the blurring of the two countries' borders.
updated 5:33 PM EDT, Tue June 24, 2014
CNN's Atika Shubert speaks to a father whose teenage son joined the Jihad movement in Syria.
updated 7:41 AM EDT, Mon June 23, 2014
At the start of Syria's civil unrest, Omar would rally against the government alongside his schoolmates, later taking to the streets in his hometown of Salqin.
updated 5:17 PM EDT, Mon June 23, 2014
Atika Shubert looks at the rise of European jihadists traveling to Syria and whether they soon could join ISIS in Iraq.
updated 10:53 AM EDT, Mon June 23, 2014
The final stockpile of Syria's chemical weapons has been shipped out of the country, according to the OPCW, the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons.
updated 4:25 PM EDT, Wed June 25, 2014
The US isn't doing airstrikes in Iraq. Is there a vacuum for Syria and Iran to step in? CNN's Fareed Zakaria weighs in.
updated 4:04 AM EDT, Tue June 10, 2014
CNN's Nick Paton Walsh reports on Syrian rebels using underground explosions against the better-equipped regime.
updated 7:51 AM EDT, Mon June 9, 2014
CNN's Nick Paton Walsh returns to the besieged rebel areas of Aleppo, a pale skeleton of a city that has had the life bombed out of it.
updated 7:51 AM EDT, Mon June 2, 2014
Syria may be embroiled in a brutal three-year civil war, but that's not stopping the government from holding presidential elections.
updated 7:23 AM EDT, Tue June 3, 2014
CNN's Nick Paton Walsh meets an ISIS defector in hiding and gets a rare look into the group's recruitment process.
updated 12:10 PM EDT, Thu June 5, 2014
Over a thousand Syrian refugees have turned an abandoned shopping mall in Lebanon into makeshift living quarters.
updated 12:16 PM EDT, Tue October 14, 2014
More than 100,000 people reportedly have been killed in Syria since a popular uprising in 2011 spiraled into a civil war.
ADVERTISEMENT