Lull in Syria shelling could allow U.N. monitors' release

Reuters News
Posted: Mar 09, 2013 4:33 AM
Lull in Syria shelling could allow U.N. monitors' release

BEIRUT (Reuters) - Shelling has subsided around the southern Syrian village where 21 Filipino peacekeepers have been held by rebels for three days, the head of a violence monitoring group said on Saturday, paving the way for their possible release.

The peacekeepers - part of the U.N. Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF), which has been monitoring a ceasefire line between Syria and Israel in the Golan Heights since 1974 - were seized by the Martyrs of Yarmouk rebel brigade on Wednesday.

They have been held in the village of Jamla, one mile from Israeli-occupied Golan. After their capture, rebels described them as "guests" and said they would be freed once President Bashar al-Assad's forces pull back from around Jamla and stop shelling.

Rami Abdulrahman, head of the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, said the area around Jamla was relatively quiet on Saturday morning. But there was no sign that efforts to rescue the peacekeepers were under way.

The United Nations and the Observatory said late on Friday that a two-hour truce had been agreed from 10 am to noon (0800 to 1000 GMT) during which the peacekeepers may be rescued.

An rescue effort on Friday was delayed by heavy bombardment and abandoned after nightfall, U.N. peacekeeping chief Herve Ladsous said.

Assad is battling a two-year uprising in which the United Nations says 70,000 people have been killed, a million have fled to neighboring countries and millions more have been displaced and need aid.

(Reporting by Dominic Evans; Editing by Louise Ireland)