• Filipino peacekeepers won’t return to besieged positions

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    THE Armed Forces of the Philppiines (AFP) would no longer allow the return of Filipino peacekeepers to the positions they have vacated inside the separation area of the Golan Heights for security reasons.

    “Our policy there is if an encampment has already been taken over, the rebels have definitely ransacked everything in it. So it’s not safe anymore [for our peacekeepers to return to Positions 68 and 69],” Col. Roberto Ancan, commanding officer, AFP Peacekeeping Operations Center, said on Sunday.

    The Filipinos occupy at least four positions in Golan Heights’ demilitarized zone. They are Positions 60, 68, 69 and 80.

    Ancan said except for Position 80, which still has 83 Filipino peacekeepers, the rest have been abandoned.

    “We still have 83 men [in Position 80], It’s a big camp, located near the Israeli border of the Golan Heights,” he added.

    Ancan said the more than 100 peacekeepers from Positions 60, 68 and 69 were all in Camp Ziouni inside Israeli territory undergoing organizational training to busy themselves till the repatriation of the entire 7th Filipino contingent at the end of the month.

    “Out men in Camp Ziouni are conducting training, EOD training, first aid, combat life support, those kind of trainings to keep them busy,” he added.

    The Filipinos left Positions 68 and 69 after they were stormed by Syrian rebels who demanded the surrender of their firearms but the peacekeepers in Position 68 stood their ground and engaged the rebels that resulted in a seven-hour firefight.

    The Filipinos left their posts with clearance from Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin, AFP chief Gen. Gregorio Pio Catapang and the commanders of the three major services of the military.

    They defied the order of United Nations Disengagement Observer Force (Undof) commander Lt. Gen. Iqbal Sing Singha to surrender their weapons or raise the white flag if attacked in exchange for the released of 21 Fijan peacekeepers being held hostage by the rebels.

    Catapang wanted Singha investigated for his indecisiveness, which placed the security and safety of the Filipino peacekeepers in grave danger.

    Singha has denied giving the surrender orders but the AFP has enough evidence to prove its accusations against the Undof commander.

    The AFP has submitted all its reports on the Golan Heights incident to the President, preparatory to the possible filing of a formal complaint against Singha before the UN.

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