Syrian rebels say no talks under way to free UN peacekeepers
A U.N. peacekeeper cross back from Syria at the Quneitra Crossing between Syria and the Israeli-controlled Golan Heights, Thursday, March 7, 2013. AP PhotoRebels holding 21 U.N. peacekeepers near the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights in southern Syria said on Friday no talks were under way to free the men and gave no indication that they would be released soon.
"There are no negotiations between any parties," said Abu Essam Taseel, from the media office of the "Martyrs of Yarmouk" brigade that captured the Filipino peacekeepers on Wednesday.
The men are part of the U.N. Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF), which has been monitoring a ceasefire line between Syria and Israel on the Golan Heights since 1974.
Their capture just a mile (1.6 km) from Israeli-held lines is further evidence of how Syria's conflict, nearing its second anniversary, could spill over into neighbouring countries.
In several videos released on Thursday, the peacekeepers said they were being treated well in the village of Jamla by civilians and rebels opposed to President Bashar al-Assad.
The United Nations said the captives had been detained by around 30 rebel fighters, but Taseel said the men were "guests", not hostages, and were being held for their own safety.
However, he said they would only be released once Assad's forces retreated from around Jamla and halted bombing there.
"Negotiations should be between (the United Nations) and the regime of Bashar al-Assad to stop the bombing and lift the blockade of the area so it can be safe," Taseel said.
The Damascus government has not commented publicly about the incident.