New attacks Saturday rocked international forces deployed in Syria.
In a more perfect world, perhaps, United Nations peacekeepers would be what the U.N. says they are: “flexible” forces that “protect civilians” and disarm combatants under international authority.
Instead, it seems, peacekeepers are sitting ducks in deadly conflicts.
Syrian rebels holding dozens of Fijian U.N. peacekeepers hostage attacked Filipino troops in the Golan Heights on Saturday, Philippine officials said. Philippine peacekeepers at one U.N. 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 Saturday Syrian time. 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 U.N. encampments 2.5 miles apart surrender their weapons, but they refused.
The fact that peacekeepers were taken hostage near the Syrian-Israeli border is historically ironic; U.N. peacekeeping was first conceived as a way to monitor the truce between nascent Israel and her Arab neighbors back in 1948.
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