The kidnapping of 21 Filipino peacekeepers was a serious mistake, Brigadier General Hussam al-Din Awak of the Free Syria Army told BBC Arabic on Thursday, adding that the rebel group is working towards the release of the unarmed UN personnel.
Al-Din Awak went on to blame local commanders on the ground for acting of their own accord and exhibiting poor judgment. He promised that the rebels would not harm the abducted UN soldiers.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights released a video earlier Thursday purporting to show six Filipino peacekeepers from a United Nations convoy detained in the south of the country on Wednesday.
In the video, a man who identifies himself as a captain in the UN Filipino battalion says he and his men were in "a safe place" adding that they had stopped in the village of Jamla because of bombing and artillery fire in the area.
"Civilian people helped us for our safety and distributed us in different places to keep us safe. They gave us good accommodation and gave us food to eat and water to drink," he said.
The United Nations said some 21 peacekeepers had been detained by armed fighters in the Golan Heights on the border between Syria and Israel on Wednesday and that it sent a team to resolve the situation.
The UN confirmation came in response to YouTube videos purporting to show Syrian rebels with the seized convoy, posted by a violence monitoring group. No injuries have been reported.
Israel voiced confidence on Thursday that the United Nations could secure the peacekeepers, signaling it would not intervene in the crisis.
"Restricting the movement of troops in an international force is a significant event," Amos Gilad, a senior Defense Ministry official, told Israel Radio. "The United Nations ... can be trusted to persuade them [the rebels] ultimately to free them."
The Philippine government said Thursday that talks were underway for the release of the peacekeepers. Foreign Affairs Department spokesman Raul Hernandez said the peacekeepers, who were detained on Wednesday, were unharmed and were being treated as "visitors and guests."
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