A United Nations official says all 21 U.N. peacekeepers who had been held captive in the Golan Heights by Syrian rebels were freed Saturday and handed over to authorities in Jordan.
Mokhtar Lamani, the representative in Damascus of the peace envoy for Syria, Lakhdar Brahimi, appointed by the U.N. and the Arab League, confirmed that the peacekeepers - all Philippine nationals - crossed into Jordan. They had been detained Wednesday.
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon welcomed news of the peacekeepers' release and urged all parties to respect their safety and freedom of movement.
Negotiations were completed Friday but darkness intervened before a U.N. convoy could reach the peacekeepers in the Golan Heights village of Jamla and deliver them to safety in Jordan.
The Philippine team was part of a long-term U.N. mission of about 1,000 troops who monitor and patrol the area of the Golan Heights between Israeli and Syrian forces. Syrian rebels who identified themselves as "the Martyrs of Yarmouk" detained the peacekeepers.
The United Nations and the Philippines strongly condemned the seizure.