MANILA, Philippines—The Philippines on Wednesday condemned “in the strongest possible terms” the abduction of four Filipino peacekeepers deployed in the Golan Heights under the United Nations Command and called for their immediate release.
The Department of Foreign Affairs also appealed to the UN Security Council to “use its influence” to secure the early release of the Filipinos.
“The Philippines underscores that the apprehension and illegal detention of peacekeepers are gross violations of international law,” said DFA spokesperson Raul Hernandez.
“As it continues to work closely with partners and stakeholders on this matter, the Philippines calls on the Security Council to exert all efforts and use its influence for the early and safe release of Filipino peacekeepers and ensure that the freedom of movement and safety and security of peacekeepers in all UN peacekeeping missions are observed,” said Hernandez.
He said Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario contacted the United Nations Tuesday night to work out the immediate release of the four Filipino peacekeepers, who were abducted amid heavy fighting in the Golan Heights.
Hernandez said Del Rosario spoke with Undersecretary Herve Ladsous of the UN Peacekeeping Operations “to coordinate efforts for the early and safe release of the Filipino peacekeepers.”
“Undersecretary Ladsous confirmed that the four Filipino peacekeepers were abducted by still unidentified armed group and brought towards Jamla area,” Hernandez said in a statement sent via text.
“UN is exerting efforts to contact and negotiate for the immediate release of the peacekeepers. There is heavy fighting in the area,” he added.
The four Filipinos, who were part of the lightly UN Disengagement Observer Force, were abducted by an armed group Tuesday on the Golan Heights amid fighting between Syrian rebels and government forces.
They were taken in the same area where 21 Filipino peacekeepers were seized and eventually released in March, also by Syrian rebel forces demanding the pullout of government troops from Jamla.
A group called “Yarmuk Martyrs Brigade” claimed responsibility but said they took the four “for their safety.”
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Tuesday called for the immediate release of the four peacekeepers.
In a statement issued through his spokesperson, Ban said he “strongly condemns the detention of four United Nations Disengagement Observer Force peacekeepers by armed elements in the vicinity of Al Jamla, in the area of limitation.”
“The Secretary-General calls on all parties to respect UNDOF’s freedom of movement and safety and security,” the statement said.