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Syria Live Coverage: 21 UN Peacekeepers Freed

Release of 21 United Nations peacekeepers at the Jordanian border on Saturday

See also Egypt (and Beyond) Live Coverage: Fighting in Cairo Kills 3 After Port Said Court Verdicts
Saturday's Syria Live Coverage: Regime Shelling Prevents Release of 21 UN Peacekeepers

1826 GMT: View from a Regime Tank. "Tank's-eye" footage of the devasted Damascus suburb of Darayya:

1416 GMT: Casualties. The Local Coordination Committees claim that 72 people have been killed today, including 30 in Damascus and its suburbs, and 29 in Aleppo Province.

1246 GMT: Opposition. The opposition Syrian National Coalition has postponed a meeting to form a provisional government.

The Coalition meeting to elect a provisional Prime Minister has been moved from Tuesday to 20 March, but may not be held even then, according to sources.

Coalition member Kamal al-Labwani, a veteran opposition figure who spent nine years as a political prisoner, said the opposition was split over the merits of forming government, with some preferring to wait to see if United Nations mediator Lakhdar Brahimi's efforts to form a transitional government as part of a political compromise succeed.

Others wanted to form a government immediately to pre-empt any deal that could see Assad remaining in power, Labwani said.

1146 GMT: Refugees. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Antonio Guterres, said today that the number of Syrian refugees could double or triple this year, based on the current trend.

The total number of Syrians registered or waiting to be registered outside the country passed the one million mark earlier this month.

0931 GMT: Shelling. The sounds of regime shelling in Homs this morning:

0643 GMT: Casualties. The Local Coordination Committees claim that 111 people were killed on Saturday, including 44 in Damascus and its Suburbs, 18 in Aleppo Province, 17 in Raqqa Province, and 13 in Idlib Province.

The Violence Documentation Center records 51,895 deaths since the start of the conflict in March 2011, an increase of 101 from Saturday. Of the dead, 41,893 were civilians, an increase of 60 from yesterday.

0633 GMT: UN Peacekeepers Freed. Saturday's headline, amid a relatively quiet day on the political and military fronts, was the released of 21 United Nations peacekeepers by the insurgent Yarmouk Martyrs' Brigade.

The 21 Filipinos, part of the force monitoring Syrian and Israeli forces in the disputed border area, were seized on Wednesday near the Golan Heights. The Brigade initially said they had taken the men to protest regime attacks, seeking a withdrawal of Syrian forces. It later changed the line to "protection" of the peacekeepers from heavy fighting in the area.

The release was reportedly held up on Friday by continuing regime bombardment of the town of Jamleh, where the peacekeepers were held. A temporary cease-fire in the area on Saturday allowed the Filipinos to be taken into Jordan.

Syrian rebels have freed 21 UN peacekeepers and have handed them over to Jordanian authorities, an international peace envoy to Syria says.

Mokhtar Lamani, the Damascus representative of the new UN-Arab League peace envoy to Syria, said the peacekeepers crossed into Jordan on Saturday afternoon.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon welcomed the release, but said all sides in the conflict must respect the UN's "impartiality".

Ban "appreciates the efforts of all concerned to secure their safe release," said a statement released by his press office.

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