Philippines Condemns Seizing of Peacekeepers

The Philippines is strongly condemning a group of Syrian rebels for seizing 21 U.N. peacekeepers in the Golan Heights disengagement area between Syria and Israel.

The country's foreign ministry said in a statement Thursday that the detention of the Filipino peacekeepers is a gross violation of international law.  It also said the government is working with the United Nations, United States, Britain, France and Germany to help free the troops.

Russia's U.N. Ambassador Vitaly Churkin told reporters that the peacekeepers had been taking supplies to a U.N. observation post on Wednesday when they were stopped by about 30 armed fighters.

Videos posted to YouTube show Syrian rebels with the U.N. supply convoy.

The detention of the peacekeepers comes on the same day that the head of the rebels' military council pleaded with the international community to supply the Free Syrian Army with more weapons.

General Salim Idriss told a news conference in Brussels, Belgium "the [Assad] regime is using very heavy weapons. Long distance artillery, surface-to-surface missiles, Scud missiles."

"We in the Free Syrian Army need, and it is very clearly to say, we need weapons and ammunition to stop [the] killing, to defend ourselves and to defend, to defend our citizens," he said.

Some Western countries have been hesitant to provide the rebels with weapons for fear they might fall into the hands of extremists and groups linked to al-Qaida.  But Britain said Wednesday it would increase aid to Syrian opposition forces and even provide armored vehicles.

"In our view if a political solution to the crisis in Syria is not found and the conflict continues, we and the rest of the European Union will have to be ready to move further and we should not rule out any option for saving lives," said British Foreign Secretary William Hague.

The Arab League Wednesday issued a statement saying member states are free to provide military aid to forces fighting against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.  The league has until now put an emphasis on humanitarian aid.

Earlier Wednesday, the United Nations said the number of refugees from Syria's two-year conflict has reached one million, while millions more people are displaced inside Syria. News by VOA News.

have your say