• Filipino peacekeepers, Syrian rebels trade fire

    6
    Filipino troops man a checkpoint between Israel and Syria in the Golan Heights in this file photo taken in March 2013. AFP PHOTO

    Filipino troops man a checkpoint between Israel and Syria in the Golan Heights in this file photo taken in March 2013. AFP PHOTO

    Filipino peacekeepers in the Golan Heights exchanged fire with Syrian rebels on Saturday, Philippine military officials reported.

    Armed Forces of the Philippines chief information officer Lt. Colonel Ramon Zagala said the 75 Filipino troops engaged the Syrian rebels in a fierce firefight. The Filipinos are part of the United Nations Disengagement Force (UNDOF) in the Golan Heights.

    Zagala could not yet say if there were casualties among the Filipinos.

    “We will give you details later on . . . we will just let you know, the priority really right now is the safety of our troops,” he said.

    He assured that “our troops are safe at the moment.”

    Military officials did not provide media details of the fighting because after a press briefing scheduled on Saturday afternoon was cancelled. Zagala said the officials were busy monitoring developments in the Golan Heights and were focused on the safety and security of the Filipino peacekeepers.

    In a text message to reporters, Gazmin said some of the Filipino troops had been “extricated” or pulled out from one of their two positions, but another group of Filipino soldiers came under fire.

    He was referring to two positions on the Golan Heights where more than 70 Filipino troops had previously been surrounded by Syrian rebels linked to al Qaeda on Thursday.

    The peacekeepers defied demands that they give up their weapons. On Friday, Syrian rebels took 43 Fijian soldiers hostage on the Golan Heights.

    Gazmin said the clash took place at “6 a.m., Syria time,” but added that the Filipinos’ morale “is high.”

    This could be the first time since the Vietnam War that Filipino soldiers have been involved in fighting in foreign soil and foreign enemies.

    The standoff in the Golan Heights remains volatile despite two days of continuous back-channeling efforts by the United Nation (UN) to end the impasse peacefully.

    “Negotiations are still ongoing, the standoff is still there. Nothing has changed so we cannot say that the situation has improved,” Zagala said.

    He said they remain hopeful that the rebels would eventually give way to UN intervention.

    Retired general and now Defense Undersecretary Natalio Ecarma 3rd, former commander of the UN Disengagement Observers Force (UNDOF), said UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon and his assistant secretaries were talking to the supporters of the rebel group and appealing to them to convince the rebels to stand down.

    The inability of the Syrian government to guarantee the security of peacekeepers is enough reason for the Philippine government to pull out its contingent in the Golan Heights.

    “When two parties to a conflict need an intermediary to keep the peace, they invite the UN peacekeeping force. When they invite the UN peacekeeping force, one of the requirements of UN is to ensure the safety and securing of our peacekeeping forces,” Ecarma said.

    “It has become so dangerous [for the Filipino peacekeepers]. We are willing to help keep the peace but not to the extent of [putting their lives in danger],” he added.

    As peacekeepers, the Filipino contingent is relegated to a defensive position, Ecarma said.

    The peacekeepers are allowed to use force if their lives are at risk or when under attack.

    Earlier, Col. Roberto Ancan, commanding officer of the AFP Peacekeeping Operations Center, said the rebels surrounded the Filipino encampments in Position 68 and Position 69, located four kilometers apart inside the demilitarized area of the Golan Heights.

    There are 40 peacekeepers in Position 68 and 35 in Position 69.

    Ancan said the Filipinos were instructed to keep their positions and defend their encampments.

    “We have our rules of engagement with which we can use deadly force in defense of UN facilities. It’s the UN flag that flies in these facilities. So we must defend those facilities,” Ancan said.

    WITH AFP

    Share.
    loading...
    Loading...

    Please follow our commenting guidelines.

    6 Comments

    1. To Gabriel and subijano,
      The US learned it’s lesson from arming the Afghan terrorists in their fight against Russia which led to Al Queda. Neither political party in the US wants to arm any Muslim terrorist group, not even the seed Moderates. And it is laughable to think Israel would arm these Muslim terrorists. Absurd.
      I hope those brave Filipino soldiers escape alive, and the cowardly Fijian also are set free.

    2. The Americans are playing a double game in the middle-east. Publicly they are backing the Iraq government but covertly it was the US, Saudi Arabia and Qatar that armed and financed the ISIS. The ISIS leader was trained by the Israeli Mossad. And why all this? Why is the US playing this game? The answer is that the US wants the fighting to continue and to keep Iraq unstable lest it falls undet the influnece if Iran. That is why maliki was forced to resign because he was to pro-Iran. And the US was to divide Iraq between Shia, sunni and Kurds. Behind all this is to protect the Petrodollat system.

    3. Subject: American Geo-politics in the Middle East is Simple

      The name of the games is oil. The worlds needs oil. No oil… someone has to get them for us at any price.

      The Philippines committed the UN Peace Keepers in Syria. Al Qaeda in Syria assumes new identity ISIS, share same chaos and promotes disability. No loyalty to anyone.

      ISIS were armed by the West, Turkey and the Saudis. Soon after name changed it gained popularity. Aspirants were coming from the US, Australia and the eastern block countries. Several faction were trained by American and British mercenaries. The area were divided into three sectors UK, US and EU.

      ISIS recent events became out of control, territorial and greedy. No loyalty to anyone. The Americans start sending drones in the area. The religion of peace became Muslim killing Muslim. Everybody wants to claim their own birth rights and harvest oil.

      In the States, Homeland Security and local police department declared war to returning military veterans due to their technical abilities. Several veterans were incarcerated and deported for traffic infraction.

      Christmas is around the corner. The agony of Philippine Civic Action Group in Vietnam still lingers in our memories. Filipino families changed destiny after they lost their love ones.

      Best Wishes and Prosperity To All

      Gabriel

      • They are brave than the Fijians who surrendered immediately. Yes Roland, I admire and Love our soldiers for their courage in spite of their number compared with the Syrian rebels. I always include them in our prayers. They have a cojones of the braves and how about you, are your 2 balls in your throat?