Pinoy peacekeepers clash with Syrian rebels in Golan

By Chiara Zambrano, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Aug 30 2014 04:20 PM | Updated as of Aug 31 2014 03:27 AM

MANILA (UPDATED) - The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) said the Al Qaeda-linked rebels of the Al Nusra Front engaged the United Nations (UN) peacekeepers guarding positions 68 and 69 in the Golan Heights on Saturday.

Filipino peacekeepers are manning those positions aided by the Syrian Army.

"Patuloy pa rin ang standoff at kanina nga nagkaroon tayo ng firefight. Bagamat meron tayong firefight, ligtas naman ang ating mga Filipino peacekeepers," AFP spokesperson Lt. Col. Ramon Zagala told ABS-CBN News.

Thirty-two Filipino peacekeepers at station 69 were able to fend off the extremist rebels, and have pulled out of the area.

However, it is unclear whether they have repositioned closer to the Israeli side of the Golan Heights, or whether they have returned to UNDOF headquarters in Camp Faouar.

Sporadic fighting continues at station 68, which is being manned by 40 Filipino peacekeepers.

No casualties have been reported so far among the Filipino peacekeepers.

Meanwhile, there is no word yet on the 43 Fijian peacekeepers who were taken hostage at 3 p.m. on Thursday.

The incident has lasted for 48 hours, starting when Al Nusra shelled the Fijian-manned station 27, and then took their arms before taking them hostage.

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) reported that Al Nusra members then went to stations 68 and 69, showed a member of a hostaged Fijian contingent, and offered their freedom in exchange for the weapons and position of the Filipino peacekeepers.

But the Filipino soldiers refused, resulting in the standoff. -- With report from Jay Ruiz, ABS-CBN News