Syria rebels hold UN peacekeepers
Updated: 2013-03-08 09:10
Gross violation of law
Philippine Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario said the peacekeepers' detention was a gross violation of international law as they were operating under the UN flag.
The captive troops are part of a 300-strong Philippine contingent to the UN force that has been monitoring the separation of Israeli and Syrian troops on the Golan.
At the end of February, the UN Disengagement Force comprised some 1,000 peacekeepers, but a growing number of incidents over the past year has made it increasingly difficult for the United Nations to keep the mission up to strength.
Canada and Japan had already withdrawn their small contingents, and Croatia announced last week it was pulling out its 100 troops.
Aquino said no decision had yet been made on the future of Manila's contingent, but its withdrawal would leave just Austrian and Indian troops.
UN peacekeeping chief Herve Ladsous told reporters after briefing the Security Council that negotiations were under way with the rebels to secure the peacekeepers' release "and the matter is mobilizing all our teams".
In an amateur video footage, a rebel spokesman said the peacekeepers would not be freed until Syrian government forces pull out of the area.
"If they do not withdraw, these men will be treated as prisoners," spokesman Abu Kaid al-Faleh said, accusing the UN force of working with the Syrian army against the rebels.
Israel, which captured much of the Golan in the 1967 Middle East war and annexed it in 1981 in a move that has never been recognized by the international community, said it feared any depletion of the UN force would pose a serious threat.
"This kidnapping is likely to convince countries that participate in this force to bring their troops home, which would undoubtedly create a dangerous vacuum in no-man's land on the Golan," an Israeli official said.
The Yediot Aharonot daily said Israeli officials feared that "al-Qaida members will take control of the buffer zone".