On August 28, a contingent of UN peacekeepers from the Philippines found themselves under siege and were allegedly ordered to surrender. They refused the order, choosing instead to fight, and after three days, secured an avenue of escape and their freedom.
Their plight demonstrates a problem in the structure of the UN chain of command, where peacekeepers turn to the command of their “commanders at home” once bullets are fired.
According to Reuters, the incident began when “al Qaeda-linked militants” battling the Syrian rebels “crossed a ceasefire line in the Golan Heights on Israel’s border and seized 45 Fijians” serving as peacekeepers. This left 40 Filipino peacekeepers surrounded.
Indian General Iqbal Singh Singha was the UN force commander at that time, and he ordered the peacekeepers to “hold their fire.” The peacekeepers subsequently spoke to General Gregorio Catapang–their commander in Manila–via telephone, and Catapang told them, “Stand your ground. Don’t surrender.”
What followed were three days of fierce fire-fighting, during which the Filipinos “fended off hundreds of rebels from the Islamic militant Nursa Front group” and then discovered an avenue of escape through the dark of night.
The means of escape involved cutting through “barbed wire and one-by-one [scaling] a perimeter wall three meters (yards) tall, [crossing] a mine field … [then] walking 2.3 kms (1.4 miles) to the Israeli side of the Golan Heights.” It took two hours for all the Filipinos to reach safety.
ANC/Yahoo! News reports that UN force commander Singha disputes claims made by the Filipino peacekeepers. He says he told them “not to shoot,” but did not order them to surrender.
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