Clashes between Syrian rebels and regime forces erupted yesterday near a village where United Nations (UN) peacekeepers are being held hostage.
UN officials said arrangements are in place for the release of the peacekeepers, but that a rescue mission last Friday was aborted because of regime shelling in the area. Rescue efforts were to resume yesterday, but these were put on hold.
The UN force has been monitoring an Israeli-Syrian ceasefire for four decades without incident, and their abduction added another destabilising twist to Syria's civil war.
The Filipino peacekeepers, who were taken last Wednesday, are being held in the basements of several houses in the village of Jamlah, near the Israeli-controlled Golan Heights, UN officials said.
The peacekeepers were taken by a rebel group calling itself the Martyrs of the Yarmouk Brigades.
In the days leading up to the abduction, rebel fighters had overrun several Syrian military checkpoints in the area, and regime forces responded with shelling attacks.
Rebels initially said they would only release the hostages if Syrian forces withdraw from the area.
However, Rami Abdul-Rahman of the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, an activist group, said the rebels apparently have dropped that demand.
The rebels have posted several videos showing the hostages, apparently to show they are being treated well.
The Syria conflict broke out two years ago, starting with largely peaceful protests against Syrian President Bashar Assad.
A harsh regime crackdown triggered an armed insurgency that has turned into a full-scale civil war.
The UN estimates that the conflict has claimed more than 70,000 lives and forced nearly four million people from their homes.