Thirty-two UN peacekeepers from the Philippines have been rescued from unidentified fighters who had attacked their post on the Syrian side of the Golan Heights, the United Nations has said.
But another group of peacekeepers, also from the Philippines, remained trapped by the fighters, and a gun battle was ongoing, the UN press office said on Saturday.
“All 32 Filipino personnel from this position have been extricated and are now safe,” the UN said in a statement, adding that the remaining troops, at a seperate border post, were still under mortar and machine gun fire.
“The UN peacekeepers returned fire and prevented the attackers from entering the position,” it said. Officials in the Philippines told Reuters news agency that there was a total of 72 peacekeepers trapped in the area.
The UN mission, known as UNDOF, has nearly 12,000 troops from six countries – Fiji, India, Ireland, Nepal, Netherlands and the Philippines – who monitor the line between the Israeli-occupied area and Syrian-held area of the Golan Heights.
Earlier on Saturday, Philippines Defence Secretary Voltaire Gazmin said that Philippine peacekeepers at one UN encampment were attacked, but those at another were “extricated”.
There were 40 Filipino troops in the encampment that came under attack, and 35 in the second, according to the Philippines military.
The UN said that there were no casualties.
The unidentified fighters had also seized 44 Fijian peacekeepers on Thursday. The Fijian peacekeepers were captured at their post about eight kilometres away from the Philippine troops.