Syrian rebels only after weapons of Filipino peacekeepers

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The Syrian rebels who are now in a stand-off with 75 Filipino peacekeepers in the Golan Heights are only most likely after the weapons, ammunition and supplies of the latter.

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This was revealed by Department of National Defense undersecretary for defense operations Natalio Ecarma Friday.

“Most likely the (Syrian rebels’) objective is the weapons, ammunition, and supplies of the (Filipino peacekeepers),” he added.

Ecarma based this on the fact that the Syrian rebels sole demand, as forwarded by a captured Fijian soldier, was that the Filipinos surrender their weapons, an order the Philippine contingent rejected.

The former commanded the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) in 2010.

The Filipino peacekeepers are attached to this body.

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) earlier said that the Filipino peacekeepers involved in the Golan Heights stand-off are a well equipped and armed force.

Col. Roberto Ancan, AFP Peacekeeping Operations Center commander, said the Filipino soldiers involved in this tiff are armed with M-4 assault rifles, M-60 light machine-guns, K-3 squad automatic weapons and .45 caliber pistols.

“(Our soldiers) have sufficient sufficient ammunition to defend themselves,” he added.

Ancan said that the Filipino peacekeepers in the Golan Heights are concentrated in Positions 68 and 69.

The number of Filipino soldiers in Position 68 are 40 and those in Position 69 are placed at 35 or a total of 75 (not 81 as earlier reported).

The two outposts are four kilometers away from each other and are fortified.

Ancan said that no firefight took place in the Filipino positions.

“No actual engagement took place in the Filipino positions since the stand-off took place Thursday,” he added.

AFP spokesperson Major Gen. Domingo Tutaan said the Filipino contingent is standing their ground.

Tutaan also declined to comment on whether the Filipino force has artillery support.

Meanwhile, Ancan added that the UNDOF is also in constant communication with the Filipino troopers.

He stressed that the Filipino peacekeepers arare mandated to defend their positions or facilities as mandated by UN rules of engagement.

Ancan also said the Syrian rebels whom the Filipino soldiers are now in a stand-off are not part of the extremist Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) but the less radical group opposing the Syria government.

“They are not ISIS we just consider them as anti-government forces,” he pointed out. PNA

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