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Syrian Rebels Release U.N. Peacekeepers Near Golan Heights

Four Filipino peacekeepers are now free, days after being abducted by Syrian rebels. They had been patrolling near the area that divides Syria and the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights. The rebels said Wednesday that the four had been held for their own protection. But Filipino officials say they were used as human shields.

"The people that abducted our peacekeepers were actually under siege and they are using our people to get themselves out of the situation they find themselves in. That thing is not for us," said the Philippines' foreign minister, Albert del Rosariosaid, according to the BBC.

Reporting for NPR's Newscast Desk from Manila, Simone Orendain reports that the rebels, the Yarmouk Martyrs Brigade, also cited safety concerns when they kidnapped — and eventually released — 21 Filipino U.N. peacekeepers in March.

On Friday, del Rosario recommended to President Benigno Aquino that the country withdraw more than 340 Filipino soldiers who are in the Golan Heights on peacekeeping duties.

The U.N. has supervised the cease-fire between Israel and Syria in the Golan Heights since 1974.

Copyright 2013 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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