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Wednesday 29 November 2023 Dublin: 1°C
AP/Press Association Images Armored vehicles from the U.N. peacekeepers of the United Nations.

Filipino UN peacekeepers defy Syrian rebels in Golan Heights standoff

Syrian rebels captured 43 Fijian soldiers yesterday.

SYRIAN REBELS SURROUNDED dozens of defiant Filipino peacekeepers in the Golan Heights today and demanded they give up their weapons, hours after taking 43 Fijian soldiers hostage, authorities said.

Seventy-five Filipino members of a United Nations’ peacekeeping force were defending two posts on the Syrian side of Golan Heights, and were prepared to fight back rather than surrender, their commander in Manila said.

Ancan, the commander of the Philippines’ peacekeeping operations division, said no shots had been fired during the standoff, but that his troops were prepared to engage in combat.

Philippines Fiji Peacekeepers Aaron Favila Commanding Officer of the Armed Forces of the Philippines Peacekeeping Operations Center, points to an area of a map where Filipino peacekeepers are stationed in Golan heights Aaron Favila

Deadly force

“We can use deadly force in defence of the UN facilities,” Ancan said.

“I (would) just like to emphasise our troops are well-armed, they are well-trained… they are well-disciplined warrior peacekeepers.”

The military said the soldiers were occupying UN Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) posts about four kilometres apart in the buffer zone between Syria and Israel that was created after a 1974 ceasefire.

The UN earlier said 81 Filipino peacekeepers were surrounded, but Ancan said there were only 40 Filipinos in one post and 35 in the other.

Buffer zone

On Wednesday Syrian rebels, including militants from the Al-Qaeda affiliate Al-Nusra Front, stormed one section of the buffer zone and exchanged fire with Israeli troops.

A day later the fighters captured 43 Fijians, forcing them to surrender their weapons then taking them hostage.

Mideast Israel Syria AP / Press Association Images Armored vehicles from the U.N. peacekeepers of the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force AP / Press Association Images / Press Association Images

Ancan said the rebels used an English-speaking Fijian hostage to relay their demand to the Filipino peacekeepers, who refused and stood their ground.

Philippine President Benigno Aquino described the situation in the Golan Heights as “tense”.

But, in brief comments to reporters, Aquino sought to calm fears about the fate of the troops.


“So far, we should not worry. The news is that the situation looks stable,” Aquino said.

Israel seized 1,200 square kilometres of the Golan Heights during the 1967 Six-Day War, then annexed it in a move never recognised by the international community.

The UN peacekeeping force has been stationed there since 1974 to monitor a ceasefire between Israel and Syria.

There are currently 1,200 UNDOF peacekeepers: from the Philippines, Fiji, India, Ireland, Nepal and the Netherlands.

Yesterday the Defense Forces confirmed that none of the peackeepers captured in the Golan Heights are Irish.

© – AFP 2014

Read: No Irish troops among dozens of peacekeepers captured in the Golan Heights>

Read: Irish peacekeeping troops experiencing ‘some harassment’ in Syria> 

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