News / Middle East

UN: Philippine Peacekeepers Safe After 'Greatest Escape'

Philippine military chief Gen. Gregorio Catapang, center, talks to reporters about the situation of Filipino peacekeepers in Golan Heights during a press conference at Camp Aguinaldo military headquarters in suburban Quezon city, Philippines, Aug. 31,
Philippine military chief Gen. Gregorio Catapang, center, talks to reporters about the situation of Filipino peacekeepers in Golan Heights during a press conference at Camp Aguinaldo military headquarters in suburban Quezon city, Philippines, Aug. 31,
VOA News

The United Nations said all the Philippine peacekeepers seized by Syrian rebels in the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights last week are now safe, but 44 Fijian peacekeepers are still missing.

Philippine military chief General Gregorio Catapang said 40 of its peacekeepers engaged in a seven-hour firefight Saturday with Syrian insurgents, but fled to safety during the night in what he called "the greatest escape."

The 40 peacekeepers were besieged at an encampment called Rwihana, by more than 100 gunmen who rammed the camp's gates with their trucks and fired mortar rounds. The Filipinos returned fire in self-defense, Philippine military officials said.

At one point, Syrian government forces fired artillery rounds from a distance to prevent the Filipino peacekeepers from being overwhelmed, said Col. Roberto Ancan, a Philippine military official who helped monitor the tense standoff from the Philippine capital, Manila, and mobilize support for the besieged troops.

Members of the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) ride on an armoured personnel carrier (APC) in the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights before crossing into Syria, Aug. 31, 2014.Members of the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) ride on an armoured personnel carrier (APC) in the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights before crossing into Syria, Aug. 31, 2014.
x
Members of the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) ride on an armoured personnel carrier (APC) in the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights before crossing into Syria, Aug. 31, 2014.
Members of the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) ride on an armoured personnel carrier (APC) in the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights before crossing into Syria, Aug. 31, 2014.

As night fell and a cease-fire took hold, the 40 Filipinos fled with their weapons, traveling across the chilly hills for nearly two hours before meeting up with other U.N. forces, who escorted them to safety early Sunday, Philippine officials said.

"We may call it the greatest escape," Catapang told reporters in Manila.

Another 35 Philippine peacekeepers serving with the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force, or UNDOF, were extracted earlier from another U.N. position that had come under fire.

Location of troops unknown

The head of the Fijian army, Brigadier General Mosese Tikoitoga, said Sunday negotiations are being pursued for the release of his country's 44 peacekeepers seized by Syrian insurgents but voiced concerns that it is not known where they are being held.

The U.N. has called for the release of the Fijians.

The al-Qaida linked al-Nusra Front is believed to be holding the peacekeepers.

Three UNDOF positions were besieged after al-Nusra and other rebels, in a battle with Syrian government forces Wednesday, overran the Quneitra crossing between the Syrian- and Israeli-controlled sides of the Golan.

The U.N. peacekeepers serve in a zone of separation on the Golan to monitor an Israel-Syria disengagement agreement reached after their 1973 war.

The U.N. mission in the Golan Heights has 1,223 troops from six countries: Fiji, India, Ireland, Nepal, Netherlands and the Philippines. 

Some information for this report provided by Reuters and AP.

You May Like

Myanmar Fighting Poses Dilemma for China

To gain some insight into conflict, VOA’s Steve Herman spoke with Min Zaw Oo, director of ceasefire negotiation and implementation at Myanmar Peace Center More

Australia Concerned Over Islamic State 'Brides'

Canberra believes there are between 30 and 40 Australian women who have taken part in terror attacks or are supporting the Islamic State terror network More

Recreational Marijuana Use Now Legal in Washington, DC

Law allows adults 21 and over to privately possess and smoke 0.05 kilogram of pot, and to grow small amounts of the plant More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Jasper from: Philippines
September 05, 2014 12:31 PM
Why do the undof commander command the Fiji peacekeeper to surrender? If the undof commander tell them not to surrender then there will be no hostages in the first place. The Philippine peacekeepers are not sacrifice people because in the hands of the terrorists there will be no assurance of safety in them. And it will be good if you have experience than full of theories that don't work.

by: frpa
September 04, 2014 10:28 AM
I am from the Philippines, and if you so called United Nations people are so weak as to in short just want to lay down on your backs and get raped by terrorists, send your own people there and not my countrymen.....what do you want my countrymen to do, line up like sheeps or goats going to the slaughter house to be beheaded? You are so pathetic....leave my countrymen out

by: Sam
August 31, 2014 4:04 AM
They seized in Syria territory not in Israel.
They are secured in the Israeli territory, now.

by: Peter Aretin from: Republic of Boulderia
August 31, 2014 3:50 AM
They should stop calling them "peacekeepers" and just call them "UN Hostages."

by: Michael from: Asia
August 31, 2014 3:09 AM
These "Peacekeepers" seem to really be--maybe--park rangers or gatekeepers, because they can't even defend themselves, let alone anyone else. Maybe they are referees. Would you want them on your team?

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Casei
X
Katherine Gypson
February 25, 2015 11:30 PM
The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Case

The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Hurt Nascent Illinois Hydraulic Fracturing Industry

Falling oil prices are helping consumers purchase cheaper petroleum at the pump. But that’s made hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” less economically viable for the companies in the United States invested in the process. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports on one Midwestern town that was hoping to change its fortunes by cashing in on the next big U.S. oil boom.
Video

Video Fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan Fuels Mass Displacement

Heavy fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan state is causing hundreds of thousands to flee into uncertain conditions. Local aid organizations estimate as many as 400,000 civilians have been internally displaced since the conflict began more than three years ago, while another 250,000 have fled across the border to refugee camps in South Sudan. VOA's Adam Bailes reports.
Video

Video Lao Dam Project Runs Into Opposition

A Lao dam project on a section of the Mekong River is drawing opposition from local fishermen, international environmental groups and neighboring countries. VOA's Say Mony visited the region to investigate the concerns. Colin Lovett narrates.
Video

Video A Filmmaker Discovers Her Biracial Identity in "Little White Lie

Lacey Schwartz grew up in an upper middle-class Jewish family, in a town in upstate New York where almost everyone she knew was white. She assumed that she was, as well. Her recent documentary, Little White Lie, tells the story of how she uncovered the secret of her true racial background. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more on the film.
Video

Video Deep Under Antarctic Ice Sheet, Life!

With the end of summer in the Southern hemisphere, the Antarctic research season is over. Scientists from Northern Illinois University are back in their laboratory after a 3-month expedition on the Ross Ice Shelf, the world’s largest floating ice sheet. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, they hope to find clues to explain the dynamics of the rapidly melting ice and its impact on sea level rise.
Video

Video US-Cuba Normalization Talks Resume Friday

Negotiations aimed at normalizing diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Cuba resume Friday. On the table: lifting a half-century trade embargo and easing banking and travel restrictions. There's opposition in Congress, but some analysts say there may be sufficient political and economic incentives in both nations for a potential breakthrough this year. VOA's Mil Arcega reports.
Video

Video Pakistan's Deadline For SIM Registration Has Cellphone Users Scrambling

Pakistani cell phone users have until midnight Thursday to register their SIM cards, or their service will be cut off. While some privacy experts worry about government intrusion, many Pakistanis are just worried about keeping their phone lines open. VOA Deewa reporter Arshad Muhmand has more from Peshawar.
Video

Video Myanmar Warns Factory Workers to End Strikes

Outside Myanmar's main city Yangon, thousands of workers walked off their jobs earlier this month demanding a doubling of their wages, pay raises after a year and input from labor unions on industrial regulations. Since Friday, the standoff has grown more tense as police moved in to disrupt the sit-ins, resulting in clashes that injured people from both sides. VOA correspondent Steve Herman visited industrial zones which have become a focus of Myanmar's fledgling workers rights movement.
Video

Video Oscar Winners Do More Than Thank the Academy

The Academy Awards presentation is Hollywood’s night to reward the best movies from the previous year. It’s typically a lot of glitter, a lot of thank you’s, a lot of speeches. But many of this year’s speeches carried messages beyond the thank you's. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti takes a look.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More