Filipino peacekeepers under attack from Syrian fighters in the Golan Heights have been “extricated,” the United Nations said.
All 32 Filipino personnel were rescued after being fired upon earlier this morning by “armed elements,” the UN said today in a statement posted on its website. There were no reported casualties among the UN personnel, and the organization is still working to free 44 Fijian peacekeepers who have been taken hostage by the Syrian fighters, according to the release.
A group of Filipino soldiers exchanged gunfire with Syrian gunmen after coming under attack in the morning, Philippine Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin said today in a text message. Another unit of troops retreated to safer ground, he added.
Fighting between rebels and the forces of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has rattled the United Nations peacekeeping mission in Golan that has monitored the buffer zone between Syria and Israel since 1974. As of July 31, the force had 1,223 troops from Fiji, India, Ireland, Nepal, the Netherlands and the Philippines, according to the UN.
The Philippine Defense Ministry said this month that 331 of its troops in Golan will be sent home at the end of their tour of duty in October.