MANILA: Syrian rebels have freed four Filipino UN peacekeepers who they had captured on the ceasefire line between Syria and the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights last week, the Philippines’ foreign minister said on Sunday.

Al Jazeera English television, monitored in Dubai, quoted sources as saying the four had been transferred to Israel.

Philippine Foreign Minister Albert del Rosario confirmed to Reuters in Manila that the four had been released. The ministry will issue a statement later in the day, he said.

The rebel Yarmouk Martyrs Brigade had said they were holding the peacekeepers for their own safety after clashes in the area had put them in danger. There was no immediate word from the rebel group itself on Sunday.

The four had been detained as they were patrolling close to an area where 21 Filipino observers were held for three days in March by the same group.

An Israeli official in Jerusalem said: “From what I understand, they were returned to the UN position they were abducted from.”

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