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All Filipino UN peacekeepers in Golan Heights now safe: Military

Published on Aug 31, 2014 9:30 AM
Members of the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) drive their armoured vehicles in the Israeli-annexed Golan Heights near the Quneitra crossing, the only border crossing between Israel and Syria, on Aug 30, 2014. -- PHOTO: AFP

SEVENTY-FIVE Filipino peacekeepers have escaped from two areas in Golan Heights that were under siege by Syrian rebels for two days, the Philippine military announced on Sunday morning.

"You could call it the greatest escape," General Gregorio Pio Catapang Jr, chief of staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, said at a news conference

General Catapang said 40 Filipino troops holed up in one position took advantage of a lull in fighting at night on Saturday to escape.

The soldiers had engaged Syrian rebels in a firefight for seven hours, beginning at 11am on Saturday, Philippine time, he said.

An initial group of 35 Filipino troops in a separate position 4km away were rescued earlier on Saturday.

All 75 have been repositioned to a safer United Nations position, said General Catapang.

“Our troops defended their position. The Syrian rebels attacked on board pick-up trucks. Our peacekeepers returned fire in self-defence. Our troops fought back bravely and successfully held their positions,” he told reporters.

The clashes came after Syrian rebel groups, including the Nusra Front, overran the Quneitra crossing on the frontier between Syrian and Israeli controlled parts of the Golan on Wednesday, seizing 44 Fijian peacekeepers.