Philippine Mayor Call Indian General of UNDOF to be SHOOT IN THE HEAD for negligence to UN Peace keepers, Ireland to Withdraw

Mindanao: Davao City Mayor Rody Duterte - “If you see the UN general, shoot him in the head. Tell them it’s Mayor Duterte’s request,”

 

Duterte: Shoot Undof chief in the head

 

Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte did not like that a United Nations general called the Filipino peacekeepers who escaped from Syrian rebels “cowards.”

In his weekly television program aired Sunday, Duterte said that United Nations Disengagement Observer Force overall chief Lieutenant General Iqbal Singha should be shot in the head due to his “offensive remark.”

“I am offended that the UN general said that our Filipino soldiers are cowards,” Duterte said in Cebuano.

“If you see the UN general, shoot him in the head. Tell them it’s Mayor Duterte’s request,” he added.

In an interview with India Today on Thursday, the Indian general said that the escape of the Filipino soldiers was “unprofessional” and that it endangered the lives of Fijian peacekeepers who were captured by the Syrian rebels.

“The higher UN echelon as well as the Indian Army agrees with me that the decision was correct. It is an act of cowardice to desert posts especially when a delicate ceasefire was in place,” Singha said.

Meanwhile, the Armed Forces of the Philippines called the act of the Filipino peacekeepers as the “greatest escape.”

Philippines want Indian UN commander investigated over order to refuse surrender

 

Gen. Gregorio Pio Carapang, the U.N. peacekeeping commander in Golan Heights, is under fire for advising 40 Filipino peacekeepers not to surrender their arms to Syrian rebels. -MENAHEM KAHANA / AFP/GETTY IMAGES 

Meanwhile, the Armed Forces of the Philippines called the act of the Filipino peacekeepers as the “greatest escape.”

The Philippine military said Monday that a U.N. peacekeeping commander in the Golan Heights should be investigated for allegedly asking Filipino troops to surrender to Syrian rebels who had attacked and surrounded their camp.

Gen. Gregorio Pio Catapang said he advised the 40 Filipino peacekeepers not to lay down their arms, and they defied the U.N. peacekeeping commander’s order. Instead,they staged a daring escape from the Golan Heights camp over the weekend, ending a tense, days-long standoff.

The disagreement is another blow to a U.N. peacekeeping mission that has been threatened by an escalation of violence in a buffer zone it has been guarding between Israel and Syria. A number of countries have withdrawn their troops from the peacekeeping force due to rising rebel attacks.

Forty-five Fijian peacekeepers who surrendered their firearms to the rebels last week are still being held by the Al Qaeda-linked insurgents.

The commander of the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force, or UNDOF, which supervises the peacekeeping mission in Golan Heights, was overseeing talks with the Syrian rebels to secure the freedom of the Fijians. However, Catapang said he would not agree to any resolution of the hostage crisis that would put Filipino troops in grave danger.

When the besieged Filipino troops sought his advice after they were ordered to lay down their arms as part of an arrangement with the rebels to secure the Fijians’ release, Catapang said he asked them to defy the order.

“I told them not to follow the order because that is a violation of our regulation, that we do not surrender our firearms; and, at the same time, there is no assurance that you will be safe after you give your firearms,” Catapang said.

“Our stand is, we will not allow our soldiers to become sacrificial pawns in order to save the Fijians,” Catapang told The Associated Press. “They should look for other ways and means to save the Fijians.”

UNDOF did not immediately reply to a request for comment.

Catapang said an investigation would allow the UNDOF commander to explain his side and the Philippine military to explain why it advised the Filipino peacekeepers to defy his order.

Due to the differences over the handling of the Golan crisis, Catapang said he asked a Filipino military officer playing a key role in UNDOF to resign.

The Philippines has given notice it will not deploy a new contingent when its current peacekeeping force ends its already-extended stint in October.

The latest crisis began after Syrian rebels overran the Quneitra crossing — located on the de facto border between Syrian- and Israeli-controlled parts of the Golan Heights — on Wednesday. A day later, insurgents from the Al Qaeda-affiliated Nusra Front seized the Fijian peacekeepers and surrounded their Filipino colleagues, demanding they surrender.

The Filipinos, occupying two U.N. camps, refused and fought the rebels on Saturday. A first group of 35 peacekeepers was then successfully escorted out of one camp by Irish and Filipino forces in armoured vehicles.

The remaining 40 peacekeepers were besieged at the second camp by more than 100 gunmen who rammed the camp’s gates with their trucks and fired mortar rounds. The Filipinos returned fire in self-defence, Philippine military officials said.

The Bravery of Philippine UN peacekeepers

“All troops accounted for, sir!” With a snappy salute, Capt. Nilo Ramones, United Nations (UN) peacekeeping contingent leader reported this to officials in the Philippines via Skype. The young captain, along with his men, just came out unscathed from their fierce standoff with Syrian rebels in Outpost 68 in strife-torn Golan Heights.

In Camp Aguinaldo in Quezon City, officials led by Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief of staff Gen. Gregorio Pio Catapang along with Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin and Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) Secretary Alberto del Rosario broke out in applause after hearing the good news from Capt. Ramones. They have been closely monitoring the situation of our Philippine troopers immediately after the attack by Syrian rebels against the multinational peacekeeping forces.

Ramones and his men are part of the UN Disengagement Observer Force, or UNDOF, whose mission is to monitor a 1974 disengagement in the Golan Heights between Israel and Syria. The Filipino troopers escaped during the ceasefire.

The AFP chief of staff called it “the greatest escape” pulled by the Filipino UNDOF troopers. With the help of other fellow UN peacekeepers, it averted what could have been a tragic end of their gallant stand.

The UNDOF peacekeeping forces in the area included 1,223 troops from India, Ireland, Nepal and the Netherlands as well as the Fijians and Filipinos who came under attack last week. They are under UNDOF commander Maj. Gen. Iqbal Singha of India.

Syria’s three-year civil war reached the frontier with Israeli-controlled territory last week when Islamist fighters overran a crossing point in the line that has separated Israelis from Syrians in the Golan Heights since a 1973 war. The Syrian rebels have now also turned against the UN peacekeeping forces patrolling the ceasefire line for the past 40 years now.

The Filipino UNDOF contingent, also called “blue helmets,” had been besieged in outposts known as positions 68 and 69. Those in Outpost 69 were rescued last Saturday. UN said both Syria and Israel helped in the rescue.

The 31-year-old Army captain Ramones and his men were left behind in Outpost 68. But they eluded the Syrian rebels by crawling in darkness Sunday night over a minefield.

Gen. Singha reportedly ordered Pinoy UNDOF troopers to give up their firearms to the Syrian insurgents who earlier captured 44 UNDOF peacekeepers from Fiji. Ramones and his men, however, held on tough with their M14s, M16s, M60 light machineguns, Squad Automatic Weapons (SAWS) and M4s and 45s cal. sidearms issued to them by our AFP for their peacekeeping mission.

Told about this purported order by the UNDOF commander to Pinoy peacekeepers, Gen. Catapang “countermanded,” saying it is simply unacceptable. “We don’t surrender our firearms. To them (Syrian rebels), it’s symbolic but to us, it’s honor that is at stake,” the AFP chief of staff pointed out.

In our language, the name of the AFP chief of staff Catapang can best describe the gallantry of our 75-man troopers in the UN peacekeeping force. The Filipino troopers put up a gallant stand against Syrian rebels trying to forcibly take their firearms.

Catapang, or “katapang” in Tagalog as loosely translated means “how brave!”

Catapang hails from Batangas. He belongs to the Philippine Military Academy (PMA)’s Class 1981 that called its batch  “Dimalupig,” or synonymous to being invincible, unconquerable, indomitable.    

A highly decorated officer, Catapang was named AFP chief of staff last July 18, or just a few days after he turned 55 years old. The Commission on Appointments is expected to confirm his promotion today.

Barely warming his seat, Catapang got his acid test in a war abroad that he has to lead via remote buttons from here.

After he learned Singha’s order was supposedly part of an arrangement with the Syrian rebels to secure the release of hostaged Fiji peacekeepers, Catapang ordered Pinoy troopers to defy UNDOF chief’s order to lay down their AFP-issued weapons. He also vowed to press for an investigation by the UN of Singha who he also accused of having “unstable” decisions during a crisis situation.

Catapang’s unofficial assumption of command from Singha was enough reason for the latter’s UNDOF chief of staff, Col. Ezra James Enriquez of the Philippines, to resign his post yesterday. Enriquez, however, will continue on as contingent commander of the Philippine peacekeepers in Golan Heights. Obviously, the Indian UNDOF commander has problems with how he commands his forces.

Yesterday, an unnamed senior UN official reportedly denied there was an order given to the Filipinos to surrender their weapons. At the same time, the UN has announced the Philippines will pull out of UNDOF. Other countries like Austria, Japan and Croatia have also withdrawn their troops as the civil war in Syria reached the Golan Heights.

Philippine government officials earlier assured the public the Filipino troopers would remain in Golan Heights until their mission ends this October, and not withdraw prematurely following the attacks on UN peacekeeping forces by the Syrian rebels.

The Israel embassy in Manila, in its official website, paid tribute to Pinoy UNDOF peacekeepers in Golan Heights: “The Filipino soldier is indeed, world-class.”

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and the Security Council strongly condemned Saturday’s attack on the UNDOF peacekeepers’ positions and the ongoing detention of the Fijian peacekeepers.

As commander-in-chief of the AFP, President Benigno “Noy” Aquino III will have the opportunity to talk with the UN secretary-general when he goes to the UN headquarters in New York City later this month. Inevitably, President Aquino would reap the brownie points before the international community from the bravery of our Filipino UNDOF troopers.

Our battle-tested soldiers are the best peacekeepers in our own country that remains deeply divided by ideological strife being waged by hardcore communists here and Muslim separatists groups breaking out from peace pacts with the Philippine government.

While deserving of accolades, the bravery of our Pinoy UN peacekeepers, unfortunately, may have been misplaced by our officials by fielding them in battlefields abroad.

Irish Foreign Minister: We May Leave Golan Force

Philippine UN peacekeepers - AFP file

Ireland is considering dropping out of the UN peace force on the Golan Heights, after dozens of Filipino peacekeepers were kidnapped by Islamist rebel groups on the Syrian side of the Golan Heights border. Speaking Sunday, Irish Foreign Affairs Minister Charlie Flanagan said that he did not want to see Irish soldiers serving on behalf of the UN “sucked into a Syrian civil war.”

The kidnapping and subsequent escape of over 70 Filipino Golan peacekeeping soldiers has sent shock waves among all the members of the international delegation that serve in the UNDOF outfit, which has been in place since shortly after the 1973 Yom Kippur War to keep Syrian army and IDF troops at bay. With the breakdown of the Syrian government and heavy losses by the Syrian Army to Islamist rebel groups, the Syrian Golan has been the scene of heavy fighting between both sides. On Saturday, Syrian officials announced fresh losses on the Golan to rebel groups, after a new round of fierce fighting.

A similar fate could await Irish troops, Flanagan said Sunday. "This is a crisis; the situation remains extremely tense and my department is in daily contact with the UN. “The time scale of the UN review of the ongoing viability of the mission is short-term and urgent. We don't want to see Irish troops or the UN contingent being drawn into a Syrian civil war," he added

The withdrawal of Irish troops could be a blow that the UN forces on the Golan would not be able to withstand, observers said. The Irish are the best-equipped and best-defended among the 1,200 soldiers of the UN member countries who send soldiers to the Golan, and their withdrawal could frighten off other countries' soldiers from serving.

Over the past year, the UNDOF force has had its peacekeepers seized by armed groups, its observation posts attacked and looted, and its freedom of movement curtailed. Tensions have been high on the Syrian side of the Golan Heights lately, as fighting in the area intensifies between rebels and the Syrian army.

Meanwhile, as fighting intensifies between Syrian army troops and Islamist rebels, the IDF has increased its presence on the Golan Heights. Security officials fear that the fighting could “spill over” the Israeli border.

A senior Israeli security official said that the IDF had recently changed its conception of defense on the Golan. A group of highly trained and experienced soldiers who know the terrain well are now on duty at all times, constituting a forward force ready to deal with trouble as it develops.

Sources: Inquirer, The STAR, philSTAR, and ARUTS SHEVA 7 - Israel

 

 
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