Syrian rebels seize 21 U.N. peacekeepers near Golan Heights
Syrian rebels seized 21 U.N. peacekeepers from the Philippines on 6 MARCH 2013 in a bid to convince President Bashar al-Assad pull back from a rebel-held village near the Golan Heights. In a video posted to the Internet, a man claiming to be the spokesman for the rebel Martyrs of Yarmouk Brigades said that his men will hold the peacekeepers until Assad’s forces withdraw from Jamlah, which has seen heavy fighting in recent days. A later message on the Yarmouk Brigades’ Facebook page hinted that Assad would bear responsibility for any harm to the prisoners, who had been on patrol in the disputed Golan region between Israel and Syria.
The incident marked a worsening of the conflict in the Golan region, where occasional mortar and artillery bombardments have stoked Israeli fears about a possible spillover of the conflict — even inspiring plans to build a fence along its border with Syria. Fighting between government and rebel forces near where the peacekeepers were abducted continued on Thursday, with little sign of abating.
Meanwhile, the United Nations began negotiations with rebel fighters Thursday in a bid to secure the peacekeepers’ release. “The negotiations are ongoing,” a spokesman for Philippines Foreign Ministry told reporters Thursday at a press conference. “This is between the U.N. peacekeeping force and the group leader of this rebel force. We have been informed that they are unharmed and for the time being they are being treated as visitors and guests.”
War on Terror: Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) led a spirited filibuster to block a confirmation vote on John Brennan, President Barack Obama’s pick to lead the CIA. In what was a multiple-hour speech, aided by senators on both sides of the aisle, Paul voiced his concern with the administration’s use of unmanned drones to fight terrorists. Since he most likely has 60 votes, however, Brenan will probably be confirmed.