Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Syrian rebels release U.N. peacekeepers

UNITED NATIONS — Twenty-one U.N. peacekeepers being held by Syrian rebels for three days were set free Saturday before safely crossing the border into Jordan, according to senior U.N. officials and rebel commanders.

It marked the end of one of the most dramatic U.N. hostage crises in years and followed days of intense U.N. negotiations to secure the release against a backdrop of intensive fighting between Syrian forces and rebel fighters.

Josephine Guerrero, a spokeswoman for the U.N. Department of Peacekeeping, said: "All 21 peacekeepers are well and unharmed."

U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki Moon's office issued a statement welcoming the Filipino peacekeepers' release and urging the combatants to respect the U.N. peacekeepers' freedom of movement and the safety of the U.N. personnel in Syria, where they are monitoring a decades-old truce along the Golan Heights between Israel and Syria.

Ban also urged the warring parties to "respect and uphold the protection of civilians," reflecting persistent concerns that Syrian authorities may retaliate against villagers in Jamlah, where rebel forces held the peacekeepers in home basements.

On Friday, the United Nations' top peacekeeping official, Herve Ladsous, cited evidence that Syrian forces had been shelling the town. Syria's U.N. envoy, Bashar al-Jaafari, denied it.

Negotiations for the release of the peacekeepers took place between rebels from the Free Syrian Army and the United Nations and did not involve the Syrian government or military, according to rebel fighters.

Clashes erupted between the Syrian military and rebels as the freed peacekeepers were on their way to the Jordanian border, rebel fighters said.

"There was heavy fighting between the Free Syrian Army and regime forces to secure safe passage for the observers," said Fahed Masri, an FSA spokesman.

There had been heavy fighting in and around Jamlah for days before the capture of the U.N. group, and some rebel fighters accused the peacekeepers of passing information about their movements to Syrian military.

Syrian rebels release U.N. peacekeepers 03/09/13 [Last modified: Saturday, March 9, 2013 9:16pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Rays are full of ideas they'd like to share when commissioner visits

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — Commissioner Rob Manfred is coming to the Trop today. Hmm. Rays principal owner Stuart Sternberg will be there to greet him. Hmmmm. And they have a scheduled joint media session. Hmmmmmmmmm.

    Commissioner Rob Manfred isn’t expected to say anything definitive about the Rays’ stadium situation when he visits the team today.
  2. Mayor Rick Kriseman endorsed by another police union


    ST. PETERSBURG — Mayor Rick Kriseman is already backed by the city's largest police union, the Suncoast Police Benevolent Association.

    Mayor Rick Kriseman has secured another police union endorsement
  3. Drinking alcohol on St. Pete beaches now allowed — for hotel guests only

    Local Government

    ST. PETE BEACH — Guests at gulffront hotels here can now drink alcoholic beverages in permitted hotel beach cabana areas.

    Guests at the Don CeSar Hotel relax Tuesday on St. Pete Beach. That night, the City Commission unanimously passed an ordinance to allow hotel guests to drink alcohol in permitted beach areas.
  4. Man found floating in 'Cotee River in New Port Richey

    Public Safety

    NEW PORT RICHEY — A body was found floating in the Pithlachascotee River on Tuesday morning, police said.

  5. More than 13,000 fact-checks later, PolitiFact celebrates 10-year mark


    ST. PETERSBURG — Bill Adair still remembers the moment when he realized his idea to fact-check politicians could turn into something big.

    From left, Aaron Sharockman, PolitiFact executive director, introduces a panel featuring Angie Holan, PolitiFact editor; PolitiFact founder Bill Adair; and Neil Brown, Tampa Bay Times editor and vice president, at the Poynter Institute on Tuesday.