Filipinos rescued

Thirty-two Philippine peacekeepers trapped by rebels in the Syrian Golan Heights have been rescued, the UN says.

A UN spokesperson said the “situation on the ground is calm but tense”, without providing further details.

Another group of 40 peacekeepers escaped a seven-hour siege by rebels after returning fire in self-defence, said the head of the Philippines army.

The rebels – said to be from the al-Qaeda-linked Nusra Front – have taken 44 Fijian peacekeepers hostage.

They have also seized a crossing point into the Israeli-occupied Golan.Worsening security

“Everyone is in a safe position. We left our (old) position but we brought all our arms,” said Philippine Lieutenant Colonel Ramon Zagala.

The head of the Philippine armed forces, General Gregorio Pio Catapang, speaking Manila, said: “We may call it the greatest escape.”

The Fijian members of the UN Disengagement Observer Force (Undof) were detained on Wednesday near Quneitra, during fighting between rebels and government forces.

Last week the Philippine government said it would bring home its 331 peacekeeping troops from the Golan Heights in October, amid deteriorating security there.

Israel seized most of the Golan Heights, a strategic plateau in south-western Syria, during the 1967 Six-Day War.

The two countries signed an armistice in 1974, after which Undof was put in place to monitor the demilitarised zone.

It has 1,224 lightly-armed military personnel from Fiji, India, Ireland, Nepal, the Netherlands and the Philippines.

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