Syrian rebel fighters who seized 21 U.N. peacekeepers in the Golan Heights on Wednesday are now backing off their show of force a bit, claiming the captives are simply “guests” whom they actually rescued.
The peacekeepers are all Filipino, sent to the Golan Heights to watch over the Syrian-Israeli border, The Associated Press reports.
Rebel fighters from Syria’s Yarmouk Martyrs Brigade grabbed the peacekeepers Wednesday and posted a video on Facebook demanding the West force President Bashar Assad to stand down his military operation.
“We demand from the U.S., the UN and the Security Council the complete withdrawal of the troops of Bashar al-Assad to release those captives,” said a man who identified himself as Abu Kayed al-Fahel in the video, Christian Science Monitor reported. “If no withdrawal is made within 24 hours, we will treat them as prisoners.” The man also accused U.N. troops of secretly working with Mr. Assad’s government forces to drive rebel fighters from Jamla, Christian Science Monitor reported.
But now that video is gone. It’s been removed from the Facebook page, and on Thursday, a new message took its place – a softer one with friendlier tones.
“With God’s help, we managed to secure a group of U.N. members working in the border town of Jamleh after they were victims of the criminal shelling of Assad’s gangs,” the statement read, The Christian Science Monitor reports. “We request from the United Nations to send us a security convoy so that we can deliver them to the organization.”
The rebel group also issued this: “We have nothing to do with any of the old statements before this one,” The Christian Science Monitor reports.