UN hopes Golan ceasefire will allow freeing of observers

The United Nations hopes a possible ceasefire will allow the release of 21 UN observers held in the Golan Heights by Syrian rebels, the head of UN peacekeeping operations said Friday.

Herve Ladsous told reporters the Filipino peacekeepers were being held in the village of Al Jamla which was under bombardment by Syrian forces.

"There is a possibility that a ceasefire of a few hours can intervene which would allow for our people to be released," he said.

UN officials said negotiations are being held with Syrian rebels and President Bashar al-Assad's government over the abduction.

The UN peacekeeping chief said the 21, who were detained on Wednesday, "have been spread into five or four locations within that village in the basement of various houses."

Ladsous said Al Jamla was under "intense shelling by the Syrian armed forces." This was denied by Syria's UN ambassador.

Bashar Jaafari said: "Syrian forces are not targeting the village, they are doing everything in order to bring back safely the peackeepers and get the armed terrorist groups out of there."

Russia's ambassador to the UN, Vitaly Churkin, the Security Council president for March, said: "We are hopeful the hostages will be released very soon."