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Syria: Violence prevents rescue of UN peacekeepers

On Friday, a U.N. mission to rescue 21 Filipino peacekeepers was aborted due to fighting near the village where they were being held. The peacekeepers were taken hostage Wednesday by a rebel group near the Israeli-controlled Golan Heights.

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Overseas Filipino Workers are given documents upon arrival Saturday, in Manila, Philippines, from civil war-torn Syria. On Wednesday, a convoy of 21 peacekeepers were seized near the Syrian village of Jamlah, just a mile from the Israeli-controlled Golan Heights in an area where the U.N. force had patrolled a cease-fire line between Israel and Syria without incident for nearly four decades.

Bullit Marquez/AP

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Syrian rebels and regime forces clashed Saturday near a village where U.N. peacekeepers are being held hostage, an activist said, complicating efforts to free them.

U.N. officials have said arrangements are in place for the release of the Filipino peacekeepers, but a rescue mission on Friday was aborted because of regime shelling in the area.

A U.N. team was en route to the village Saturday afternoon to retrieve the hostages but stopped several miles away because of the fighting, said a rebel spokesman.

Instead, rebels began escorting the captives to the nearby Syrian-Jordanian border, the spokesman said via Skype, insisting on anonymity for fear of reprisals.

Jordanian security officials said they were not aware of peacekeepers heading to the border but were checking further. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity in line with military regulations.

The U.N. force has been monitoring an Israeli-Syrian cease-fire for four decades without incident, and the abduction of the 21 men added another destabilizing twist to Syria's civil war.

The Filipino peacekeepers, taken captive on Wednesday, were being held in the basements of several houses in the village of Jamlah, near the Israeli-controlled Golan Heights, U.N. officials said.

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