Filipino troops acting as United Nations peacekeepers in Golan Heights managed to escape unscathed from a seven-hour firefight with Syrian rebels, the Armed Forces of the Philippines said Sunday.
The AFP said the Filipino troops took advantage of the rebels taking a rest to make their escape, radio dzBB's Rodil Vega reported.
"You could call it the greatest escape. Although they were surrounded and outnumbered, they held their ground for seven hours," AFP chief of staff Gen. Gregorio Pio Catapang Jr. said in a press conference Sunday morning, parts of which were aired on dzBB.
He said the Filipinos escaped "in the middle of the night while they (Syrian rebels) were sleeping."
After the firefight, the Filipino peacekeepers have been repositioned, dzBB's Rowena Salvacion tweeted.
rowena l. salvacion @wengsalvacion
No casualty among the Filipino peacekeepers was reported following the firefight.
DZBB Super Radyo @dzbb
In a statement, Catapang said Syrian rebels initiated an attack on Position 68 at 11 a.m. Saturday, Philippine time.
"Our troops defended their position. The Syrian rebels attacked on-board pick-up trucks. Our peacekeepers returned fire in self-defense. Our troops fought back bravely and successfully held their positions. This attack prompted UNDOF (United Nations Disengagement Observer Force) to reposition our troops to a more secure position within the mission area," he said.
He added the governments of Syria and Israel are supporting Filipino troops to uphold the integrity of the area of separation and to de-escalate the situation.
Catapang lauded the teamwork "demonstrated by our fellow UNDOF troop-contributing countries and the UN."
Other governments including the United States and Qatar also played a role in the safeguarding the Filipino peacekeepers, he added.
"Currently, Filipino peacekeepers from both Position 68 and 69 have successfully repositioned to Camp Ziuoani," he said.
In the meantime, Catapang said the AFP and UN will not compromise the safety and security of the Philippine troops while in the pursuit of their duties.
"It is in our national interest to prioritize their safety without abandoning our commitment to international security," he said.
"We commend our soldiers for exhibiting resolve even while under heavy fire. This manifests their determination to fulfill our commitment to the community of nations," he added.
Meanwhile, dzBB's Vega reported AFP public affairs head Lt. Col. Ramon Zagala maintained the Filipino peacekeepers are likely to stay until the end of their tour of duty in October.