UN Peacekeepers Escape Golan Heights After Attack, 7-Hour Siege by Al Qaeda-Linked Syrian Rebels

MANILA, Philippines (TheBlaze/AP) — More than 70 Filipino UN peacekeepers have escaped from two areas in the Golan Heights that came under attack by Al Qaeda-linked Syrian rebels, according to the Philippine military chief.

Thirty-two peacekeepers were rescued after militants surrounded their camp, trapping them for two days, USA Today reported, citing activists and officials. The paper added that other U.N. peacekeepers fled from a different encampment also surrounded by rebels of the al-Nusra Front, al-Qaeda’s Syrian affiliate.

UN peacekeepers gather at the UN headquarters next to the Quneitra crossing, the only border crossing between Israel and Syria, in the Golan Heights on August 30, 2014. (Image source: AFP/Ahmad Gharabli/Getty Images)

Gen. Gregorio Pio Catapang said Sunday in the Philippine capital, Manila, that the Filipino peacekeepers separately moved to positions safely away from any further threat.

The Filipinos had to return fire in self-defense before managing to escape after a seven-hour siege, Catapang said. He added, “We may call it the greatest escape.”

The clashes came after Syrian rebel groups, including the Nusra Front, overran the Quneitra crossing on the frontier between Syrian and Israeli controlled parts of the Golan on Wednesday, seizing 44 Fijian peacekeepers.

The peacekeepers are a part of the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force, which has been in place since 1974 to maintain the cease-fire between the Israeli and Syrian forces, USA Today reported, citing the group’s website.