News / Asia

Pressure Mounts for Release of UN Peacekeepers in Syria

A Filipino United Nations peacekeeper stands next to a U.N. vehicle before it crosses from Israel into Syria at the Kuneitra border crossing on the Golan Heights, March 5, 2013.
A Filipino United Nations peacekeeper stands next to a U.N. vehicle before it crosses from Israel into Syria at the Kuneitra border crossing on the Golan Heights, March 5, 2013.
VOA News
A Syrian opposition spokesman said that 21 United Nations peacekeepers being held by Syrian rebels soon will be freed.

Hisham Marwah, a spokesman for the Western-backed Syrian National Coalition, made the comments in Istanbul amid mounting international pressure to free the peacekeepers.

"These people [the 21 U.N. peacekeepers] will be released soon because they are not involved in any military action or any military operations," said Marwah.

Rami Abdul-Rahman, a spokesman for the London-based Syria Observatory for Human Rights, said he and others have told the rebel brigade that holding the peacekeepers is a mistake.

The peacekeepers are part of 1,000-plus force that patrols a zone between Israel and Syria in the Golan Heights. The U.N. troops were detained Wednesday by Syrian rebels who have identified themselves as the Martyrs of Yarmouk.

The Observatory posted video on the Internet showing some of the Filipino peacekeepers. One peacekeeper, who identified himself as a captain, said he and his men were safe.

"Civilian people helped us for our safety and distributed us in different places to keep us safe. They gave us good accommodation and gave us food to eat and water to drink,'' said an unidentified UN peacekeeper.

Both the U.N. and the Philippines have strongly condemned the seizure of the peacekeepers. U.N. officials have been negotiating with the rebel brigade's commanders for their release.

The Syrian Observatory's Abdul-Rahman said the rebel group is fighting for villages in the area and has been operating independently.

“They want the Syrian regime to stop attacking the area, to stop shelling the area, for that he [the brigade commander] stopped the United Nations monitors,” said Abdul-Rahman.

One of the concerns of Western countries trying to support the Syrian opposition has been a lack of political and military cohesion among rebel forces.

Abdul-Rahman said the rebel brigade's actions in the Golan are part of a worrying trend.

“We see the Syrian regime, they do many crimes in Syria. But now we report every day crime of the Syrian opposition, as well,” said Abdul-Rahman.

Seeking to solidify its strategies, the main Syrian opposition organization, the Syrian National Council, said Thursday it will meet next Tuesday in Istanbul to begin talks on forming a provisional government.

Meanwhile, the medical charity Medecins Sans Frontiers [MSF] criticized the government of President Bashar al-Assad Thursday for attacking doctors and hospitals.

It also warned rebel groups not to use medical faculties for cover or humanitarian aid shipments to help smuggle in weapons.

You May Like

Video Americans, Tourists, Reflect on Meaning of Thanksgiving

VOA garnered opinions from several people soon after November 13 Paris attacks, which colored many of their thoughts

Video Thais Send Security Concerns Down the River

In northern Thailand, the annual tradition of constructing floating baskets to carry away the year’s bad spirits highlights the Loy Krathong festival

Video Tree Houses - A Branch of American Dream

Workshops aimed at teaching people how to build tree houses have become widely popular in America in recent years

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
by: Anonymous
March 07, 2013 4:03 PM
what a revolting web site you are Voice of "America" ... more like voice of the Muslim brotherhood... disgrace !!!

by: JKF from: Ottawa, Canada
March 07, 2013 11:11 AM
A sad day when unarmed UN Observers are taken hostage, once again. The UN was warned about the growing instability; it should have taken proactive defensive actions to avoid this sit. Most UN missions have had this type of occurence, hard to understand why? the UNHQ does not take preventive actions to ensure the safety of its field staff, "LESSONS LEARNED" from past missions; a case of bad memory? The Gulf States, Turkey, and the opposition leadership, that provide help to/run the opposition figthers, should be involved in the negotiations for the release of the Observers. Such hostage taking greatly undermines the opposition and its command and control claims. I hope the unarmed observers are released soon and are in good condition.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Belgium-Germany Border Remains Porous, Even As Manhunt For Paris Attacker Continuesi
Ayesha Tanzeem
November 25, 2015 10:46 PM
One of the suspected gunmen in the Nov. 13 Paris attacks, Salah Abdeslam, evaded law enforcement, made his way to Belgium, and is now believed to have fled to Germany. VOA correspondent Ayesha Tanzeem makes the journey across the border from Belgium into Germany to see how porous the borders really are.

Video Belgium-Germany Border Remains Porous, Even As Manhunt For Paris Attacker Continues

One of the suspected gunmen in the Nov. 13 Paris attacks, Salah Abdeslam, evaded law enforcement, made his way to Belgium, and is now believed to have fled to Germany. VOA correspondent Ayesha Tanzeem makes the journey across the border from Belgium into Germany to see how porous the borders really are.

Video Islamic State Unfazed by Losses in Iraq, Syria

Progress in the U.S.-led effort to beat Islamic State on its home turf in Iraq and Syria has led some to speculate the terror group may be growing desperate. But counterterror officials say that is not the case, and warn the recent spate of terror attacks is merely part of the group’s evolution. VOA National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more.

Video Taiwan Looks for Role in South China Sea Dispute

The Taiwanese government is one of several that claims territory in the hotly contested South China Sea, but Taipei has long been sidelined in the dispute, overshadowed by China. Now, as the Philippines challenges Beijing’s claims in an international court at The Hague, Taipei is looking to publicly assert its claims. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.

Video Syrian Refugees in US Express Concern for Those Left Behind

Syrian immigrants in the United States are concerned about the negative tide of public opinion and the politicians who want to block a U.S. plan to accept 10,000 Syrian refugees. Zlatica Hoke reports many Americans are fighting to dispel suspicions linking refugees to terrorists.

Video After Paris Attacks, France Steps Up Fight Against IS

The November 13 Paris attacks have drawn increased attention to Syria, where many of the suspected perpetrators are said to have received training. French President Francois Hollande is working to build a broad international coalition to defeat Islamic State in Syria and in Iraq. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video US, Cambodian Navies Pair Up in Gulf of Thailand

The U.S. Navy has deployed one of its newest and most advanced ships to Cambodia to conduct joint training drills in the Gulf of Thailand. Riding hull-to-hull with Cambodian ships, the seamen of the USS Fort Worth are executing joint-training drills that will help build relations in Southeast Asia. David Boyle reports for VOA from Preah Sihanouk province.

Video Americans Sharpen Focus on Terrorism

Washington will be quieter than usual this week due to the Thanksgiving holiday, even as Americans across the nation register heightened concerns over possible terrorist threats. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports new polling data from ABC News and the Washington Post newspaper show an electorate increasingly focused on security issues after the deadly Islamic State attacks in Paris.

Video World Leaders Head to Paris for Climate Deal

Heads of state from nearly 80 countries are heading to Paris (November 30-December 11) to craft a global climate change agreement. The new accord will replace the Kyoto Protocol on Climate Change that expired in 2012.

Video Uncertain Future for Syrian Refugee Resettlement in Illinois

For the trickle of Syrian refugees finding new homes in the Midwest city of Chicago, the call to end resettlement in many U.S. states is adding another dimension to their long journey fleeing war. Organizations working to help them integrate say the backlash since the Paris attacks is both harming and helping their efforts to provide refugees sanctuary. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

Video Creating Physical Virtual Reality With Tiny Drones

As many computer gamers know, virtual reality is a three-dimensional picture, projected inside special googles. It can fool your brain into thinking the computer world is the real world. But If you try to touch it, it’s not there. Now Canadian researchers say it may be possible to create a physical virtual reality using tiny drones. VOA’s George Putic reports.

Video New American Indian Village Takes Visitors Back in Time

There is precious little opportunity to experience what life was like in the United States before its colonization by European settlers. Now, an American Indian village built in a park outside Washington is taking visitors back in time to experience the way of life of America's indigenous people. Carol Pearson narrates this report from VOA's June Soh.

Video Even With Hometown Liberated, Yazidi Refugees Fear Return

While the northern Iraqi town of Sinjar has been liberated from Islamic State forces, it's not clear whether Yazidi residents who fled the militants will now return home. VOA’s Mahmut Bozarslan talked with Yazidis, a religious and ethnic minority, at a Turkish refugee camp in Diyarbakır. Robert Raffaele narrates his report.

Video Nairobi Tailors Make Pope Francis’ Vestments

To ensure the pope is properly attired during his visit, the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops asked the Dolly Craft Sewing Project in the Nairobi slum of Kangemi to make the pope's vestments, the garments he will wear during the various ceremonies. Jill Craig reports.

Video Cross-Border Terrorism Puts Europe’s Passport-Free Travel in Doubt

The fallout from the Islamic State terror attacks in Paris has put the future of Europe’s passport-free travel area, known as the "Schengen Zone," in doubt. Several of the perpetrators were known to intelligence agencies, but were not intercepted. Henry Ridgwell reports from London European ministers are to hold an emergency meeting Friday in Brussels to look at ways of improving security.

Video El Niño Brings Unexpected Fish From Mexico to California

Fish in an unexpected spectrum of sizes, shapes and colors are moving north, through El Niño's warm currents from Mexican waters to the Pacific Ocean off California’s coast. El Nino is the periodic warming of the eastern and central Pacific Ocean. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, this phenomenon thrills scientists and gives anglers the chance of a once-in-a-lifetime big catch. Faith Lapidus narrates.

Video Terrorism in Many Forms Continues to Plague Africa

While the world's attention is on Paris in the wake of Friday night's deadly attacks, terrorism from various sides remains a looming threat in many African countries. Nigerian cities have been targeted this week by attacks many believe were staged by the violent Islamist group Boko Haram. In addition, residents in many regions are forced to flee their homes as they are terrorized by armed militias. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Study: Underage Marriage Rate Higher for Females in Pakistan

While attitudes about the societal role of females in Pakistan are evolving, research by child advocacy group Plan International suggests that underage marriage of girls remains a particularly big issue in the country. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports how such marriages leads to further social problems.

VOA Blogs