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Syrian rebels engaged PH peacekeepers

Metal boards in the shape of gunmen sit on an old bunker at an observation point on Mt. Bental in the Israeli controlled Golan Heights, overlooking the border with Syria near the Quneitra province, Friday, Aug. 29, 2014. AP

MANILA, Philippines – Syrian rebels engaged Filipino peacekeepers in a firefight in Golan Heights on Saturday, defense and military officials said.

Rebels attacked “Position 68” around 6 a.m. Syrian time (around 11 a.m. Philippine time), Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin said in a text message.

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“Naka-extricate na ang position 69 and only position 68 now ang under attack [Position 69 has been extricated and it’s only position 68 now that is under attack],” he said.

“Mataas ang morale [Their morale is high],” Gazmin said, when asked how the troops were doing.
Armed Forces Chief of Staff General Gregorio Pio Catapang Jr. confirmed this separately with INQUIRER.net.

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Lieutenant Colonel Ramon Zagala, Armed Forces of the Philippines public affairs chief, said there have been no reported casualties.

“Although may firefight, safe ang tropa natin [Although there is a firefight, our troops are safe],” Zagala told reporters at the press office in Camp Aguinaldo.

The military was supposed to hold a press briefing on the developments in Golan Heights, but Zagala said the event was postponed to a later time.

“We are now focused on the safety and security of our troops,” Zagala said, adding that Gazmin, Catapang, and other military officials are discussing plans in a conference.

Seventy-five Filipino peacekeepers had been in a standoff with Syrian rebels at Positions 68 and 69 since Thursday, after the rebels took 43 Fijian peacekeepers hostage.

Position 69 has 35 Filipino peacekeepers while Position 68 has 40, according to the AFP.

On Friday, 58 other Filipino troops in Position 60 were brought to the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force headquarters in Camp Faouar, as per orders from the UNDOF for them to be “consolidated,” the military said.

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A separate source privy to the monitoring of the situation, said the attack was done in Positions 68 and 69 by the rebels 6 a.m. Syrian time.

There have been Filipino peacekeepers trapped in these positions since Thursday after refusing to surrender their firearms.

There were no reported casualties so far among the peacekeepers, the source said.

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TAGS: Crisis, firefight, Golan Heights, peacekeepers, Syria, Unrest
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