Syrian rebels free 21 U.N. peacekeepers
March 9, 2013 -- Updated 2111 GMT (0511 HKT)
Jordanian Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh greets U.N. peacekeepers after their release on the Syria-Jordan border Saturday.
- NEW: Ban Ki-moon "welcomes" the peacekeepers' release
- Twenty-one U.N. peacekeepers are handed to Jordanian officials at border with Syria
- Rebels initially said peacekeepers, all Filipinos, were trying to aid their enemy
- Then they said they were just trying to keep them out of harm's way
(CNN) -- Twenty-one U.N. peacekeepers detained by Syrian rebels this week have been handed over to Jordanian authorities at the border with Syria, the Free Syrian Army told CNN Saturday.
Jordanian officials confirmed the release and added their government had no coordination nor agreement in the handover, said spokesman Samih Maaytah. Official protocol was followed, he added.
The 21 peacekeepers were turned over at the Syrian-Jordanian border at Yarmouk valley on Saturday, Free Syrian Army chief of staff General Salim Idris told CNN.
Rebels had detained the peacekeepers, identified by the Philippine government as Filipino, in a Syrian village near the Golan Heights.
Interview with Syrian Opposition Pres.
Syria opposition: U.N. peacekeepers safe
One million Syrians now refugees
Syrian opposition coalition President Moaz al-Khatib says the rebels took the peacekeepers for their own safety due to fighting there. The peacekeepers reportedly are unharmed.
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon "welcomes" the release of the peacekeepers, the organization said in a statement. The peacekeepers have an impartial role, the statement said, and the secretary-general called for both sides in the conflict to respect the freedom of movement and security of his personnel.
Fighting in the area resumed in the villages near the Jordanian border following the handover, the opposition Local Coordination Committees of Syria reported.
The group reported 63 deaths across Syria on Saturday.
International tension had grown this week after about 30 Syrian rebels detained the peacekeepers and refused to let them go.
The United Nations and Filipino government demanded their release.
The consul general of Philippine embassy in Jordan confirmed the release, and said the peacekeepers were being transported to Amman.
The rebels initially said that the peacekeepers were trying to aid their enemy -- the regime of President Bashar al-Assad -- when they entered a Syrian village near the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights, an area where peacekeepers should not be and where intense fighting has been raging for days between rebels and government forces.
Al-Khatib then said the peacekeepers were taken to protect their safety and that of a U.N. convoy in an area under bombardment for seven days.
CNN's Caroline Faraj contributed to this report.
Part of complete coverage on
October 16, 2013 -- Updated 1708 GMT (0108 HKT)
CNN senior international correspondent Nick Paton Walsh looks back at his reports from the front line, for which he has won an Emmy.
January 28, 2013 -- Updated 1637 GMT (0037 HKT)
Thousand of war-weary Syrians continue their exodus into Jordan. CNN's Mohammed Jamjoom travels with some to the border.
October 29, 2013 -- Updated 2201 GMT (0601 HKT)
Polio, not seen for a decade, has returned to Syria. Atika Shubert reports on the crisis that leaves 500,000 at risk.
September 6, 2013 -- Updated 1000 GMT (1800 HKT)
New video by opposition groups in Syria exposes suffering from apparent malnutrition, as CNN's Arwa Damon reports.
October 23, 2013 -- Updated 0357 GMT (1157 HKT)
CNN's Atika Shubert reports on the horrific violence witnessed by one volunteer doctor in Syria.
July 23, 2013 -- Updated 1051 GMT (1851 HKT)
In Lebanon, resentment toward Syrian refugees is growing. CNN's Mohammed Jamjoom reports.
November 6, 2013 -- Updated 1340 GMT (2140 HKT)
Raqqa was one of Syria's most liberal cities. Now locals call it Tora Bora. Now they say it's as if the Taliban of Afghanistan have taken over.
September 16, 2013 -- Updated 0158 GMT (0958 HKT)
Increasing numbers of Syrian children are suffering from malnutrition as vital supplies are cut off, as CNN's Arwa Damon reports.
September 11, 2013 -- Updated 0132 GMT (0932 HKT)
Facing the threat of U.S. military action, Syria has said it welcomes a Russian proposal to hand over its stockpiles of chemical weapons.
November 5, 2013 -- Updated 1321 GMT (2121 HKT)
It's an odd experience flying in to Hatay, southern Turkey, on the border with Syria and its nasty and seemingly infinite war these days.
November 6, 2013 -- Updated 1612 GMT (0012 HKT)
Al Qaeda now holds power across large parts of northern Syria, according to a CNN survey of towns, activists and analysts.
August 31, 2013 -- Updated 1122 GMT (1922 HKT)
For 13 years, Bashar al-Assad has governed Syria, for the last two, he's faced repeated calls from inside and outside the country for his resignation.
September 10, 2013 -- Updated 0711 GMT (1511 HKT)
The younger brother of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is described by analysts as someone even more brutal than his sibling.
August 29, 2013 -- Updated 1157 GMT (1957 HKT)
As the Syrian civil war rages on, the president's high-profile wife, Asma, has kept a low profile.
September 6, 2013 -- Updated 2224 GMT (0624 HKT)
The Syrian civil war has birthed rebel groups across a wide ideological and geographic spectrum.
September 16, 2013 -- Updated 1842 GMT (0242 HKT)
More than 2 million Syrians have fled their country, according to the United Nations refugee agency.
August 28, 2013 -- Updated 0226 GMT (1026 HKT)
CNN's Fred Pleitgen obtains exclusive video footage of the aftermath of a suspected chemical weapons attack in Syria.
Today's five most popular stories