Aquino kept abreast of PH peacekeepers’ situation
MANILA—President Benigno Aquino III is briefed “round the clock” on the standoff between the Filipino peacekeepers and Syrian rebels at the Golan Heights, which entered its third day on Saturday, Malacanang said.
“The President is being briefed round the clock.… He is focused on the developments in the Golan Heights and the AFP (Armed Forces of the Philippines) continues to brief the President on a very regular basis,” Palace spokesperson Abigail Valte said on government-owned Radyo ng Bayan.
Asked if the immediate pullout of the Filipino contingent from the Golan Heights was an option after the standoff is resolved, Valte replied, “Certainly, they’re taking the present situation into consideration.”
President Aquino had earlier directed the repatriation of the 346-strong Filipino peacekeepers, all from the Army, after they complete their tour of duty with the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) in October in light of the volatile security situation in strife-torn Syria.
Mr. Aquino cut short his trip to Mindoro Oriental on Friday because of what he described as a “tense” situation in the Golan Heights.
Seventy-five Filipino soldiers posted in two different camps called Position 68 and 69 have been locked in a standoff with Syrian rebels since Thursday morning in Syria.
The rebels had demanded the peacekeepers give up their weapons and the latter refused, triggering the standoff, which entered its third day at 10 a.m. Syrian time (5 p.m. in Manila).
The Syrian rebels had earlier taken 43 Fijian peacekeepers hostage after confiscating their weapons and taking over their encampment at the Golan Heights.
The rebels had stormed one section of the Golan Heights, the buffer zone between Syria and Israel, triggering an exchange of fire with Israeli soldiers. The peacekeepers were caught in the crossfire.
The civil war in Syria began in 2011 after protesters demanded the ouster of President Bashar al-Assad in a new wave of anti-dictatorship revolution in the Middle East called the Arab Spring.
While some countries successfully deposed their presidents who ruled for decades, Syria plunged into a civil war after al-Assad refused to step down.
The extremist group Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), also began a bloody rampage in the northeastern side of Syria in August.
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