UN Peacekeepers Held Hostage Cross Border Into Jordan


A group of 21 UN peacekeepers held by the Syrian rebel group, the Yamouk Martyrs, have been released this morning after crossing the Syrian border into Jordan. Both Jordanian border officials and members of the Syrian opposition confirm the transfer. Their abductors accompanied the group to the border after a failed UN bid to rescue the peacekeepers on Friday.

That first rescue attempt failed due to heavy shelling by the Syrian army in the area of Jamla, which is just outside the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights. The Syrian ambassador to the UN has denied any governmental involvement in the shelling that took place on Friday. Ambassador Bashar Jaafar claimed the government was doing "everything in order to bring back safely the peacekeepers."

The rebels had previously said that they would only release the peacekeepers if the Syrian army withdrew from the region. They later backed off that claim and were working with a UN team that was due to reenter Syria on Saturday. The convoy had been stopped due to continued fighting. When this happened, the rebels began moving the hostages towards Jordan. 

The peacekeepers are part of the UN mission known as UN Disengagement Observer Forces (UNDOF). They were captured after being stopped by a group of armed men at an observation post while attempting a routine supply run on Wednesday. UNDOF has been responsible for monitoring the border between Israeli-occupied Golan Heights and Syria since the 1973 Arab-Israeli war.