Syrian Rebels Attack Peacekeepers in Golan Heights
By PTI | Published: 30th August 2014 06:25 PM |
MANILA: Syrian rebels holding dozens of Fijian UN peacekeepers hostage attacked Filipino troops in the Golan Heights today, Philippine officials said.
Philippine peacekeepers at one UN encampment were attacked, but those at another were "extricated," Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin told reporters in a series of text messages, adding that the attack started early today.
Philippine military spokesman Lt Col Ramon Zagala told reporters, "There is an ongoing firefight, but all Filipinos are safe."
There were 40 Filipino troops in the encampment that came under attack, and 35 in the second, according to the Philippine military.
The Syrian rebels seized 44 Fijian peacekeepers on Thursday. The rebels then demanded that the 75 Filipinos manning two separate UN encampments 4 kilometres apart surrender their weapons, but they refused.
The situation of the peacekeepers, whose mission monitors a 1974 disengagement accord between Syria and Israel, remains "very, very fluid," the UN secretary-general's spokesman, Stephane Dujarric, told reporters yesterday at the UN headquarters in New York.
The UN said in a statement that it had received assurances from credible sources that the Fijian peacekeepers "are safe and in good health."
The statement added that they had been informed "the intention behind holding the peacekeepers was to remove them from an active battlefield to a safe area for their own protection."
In Australia today, Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop condemned the detention of the Fijian peacekeepers and called for their release.
"As a member of the UN Security Council, Australia demands the unconditional and immediate release of all the detained United Nations peacekeepers," Bishop said in a statement.
Bishop said she telephoned Fijian Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama and Foreign Minister Ratu Inoke Kubuabola to express Australia's strong support, including Australia's intelligence resources.