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Thursday, March 7, 2013

Video of Captive U.N. Peacekeepers in Syria

One day after Syrian rebels seized 21 United Nations peacekeepers from the Philippines in the Golan Heights, a part of Syria held by Israel since the 1967 war, six of the captives appeared in a brief video clip released by an opposition group.

Video posted on YouTube Thursday by the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, an activist group based in Britain, appeared to show six U.N. peacekeepers in captivity.

In the video, a man who identified himself as a captain in the Philippine battalion of the U.N. mission that patrols the ease-fire line in the region said the group was “safe in this place.” He said that the group had been rescued by “civilian people” during bombing and artillery fire near a U.N. observation post close to the the village of al-Jamla. Speaking in English, the captain said: “Civilian people helped us, for our safety and distributed us in different places to keep us safe. And they gave us good accommodation and gave us food to eat and water to drink.”

A detail from a United Nations map of the Golan Heights cease-fire zone patrolled by the peacekeepers who were seized by Syrian rebels on Wednesday. A detail from a United Nations map of the Golan Heights cease-fire zone patrolled by the peacekeepers who were seized by Sy! rian rebels on Wednesday.

As my colleagues Alan Cowell and Rick Gladstone report, United Nations and Arab League officials were reported to be negotiating on Thursday with the Syrian rebels. A spokesman for the Philippine foreign ministry told reporters in Manilla that talks were underway and “expeditious release” of the abducted Filipinos.

A video report from the Philippine broadcaster ABSCBN.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, an opposition group based in Britain which obtained the video from the rebels and posted it online, also released a second clip, in which an insurgent addressed President Bashar al-Assad, ocking him for his claim to lead “the resistance” against Israel while using force against his own people instead.

Video said to show the Syrian rebel group that kidnapped 21 U.N. peacekeepers this week.

“We will be steadfast here until you move your tanks and armies to their military positions, Bashar,” the fighter said. “This is al-Jamla here and not Israel. Israel is 500 meters away. If you claim to be opposition and resistance then shift the direction of your tanks a little. Israel is 500 meters away from you. And it’s not the Syrian people who are at that distance from you, Bashar, for you to face your tanks at them.”