U.N. peacekeepers from Philippines successfully extracted in firefight
Saturday, August 30, 2014 - 00:36
Nearly three dozen U.N. peacekeepers from Philippines trapped by militants in Golan Heights were successfully extracted in Firefight - U.N. officials. Rough Cut (no reporter narration).
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ROUGH CUT (NO REPORTER NARRATION)
STORY: Nearly three dozen U.N. peacekeepers from the Philippines who had been surrounded for days by Islamist militants on the Syrian side of the Golan Heights were rescued on Saturday (August 30) during a firefight, U.N. officials said.
A Reuters cameraman spotted 11 United Nations armored vehicles returning to their base in Israeli controlled territory about 12 hours after a Philippines force came under attack at around 6 a.m. (0400 GMT), Philippines defense chief Voltaire Gazmin told reporters in Manila.
"They were safely extracted, nearly three dozen of them," a U.N. official told Reuters on condition of anonymity. Other U.N. officials confirmed it. Officials in the Philippines have said all 72 of the trapped Filipino peacekeepers were safe.
The U.N. officials said the other Philippine peacekeepers remained trapped by the militants, who have been battling the Syrian army on the Golan Heights. Another 44 Fijian peacekeepers have been detained by militants nearby since Thursday.
The troops are part of UNDOF, a U.N. force that has monitored the disengagement zone between Israel and Syria since 1974 in the wake of the 1973 Arab-Israeli war.
U.N. officials are trying to establish the whereabouts of the 44 Fijian peacekeepers, also part of UNDOF, seized by al-Qaeda-linked militants this week along the rocky boundary between Syria and the Golan Heights.
The Philippine troops, however, had held their ground for about 48 hours and refused to yield their arms to the militants.
The Fijian peacekeepers were captured at their post about eight kilometers away from the Philippine troops.
UNDOF has 1,223 peacekeepers from six countries operating in the zone.
The Golan is a strategic plateau captured by Israel in the 1967 Middle East War and Syria and Israel technically remain at war. UNDOF monitors the area of separation, a narrow strip of land running about 45 miles (70 km) from Mount Hermon on the Lebanese border to the Yarmouk River frontier with Jordan.
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