Exceptional courage in the face of adversity-A A +A
The Council Reports
Wednesday, September 3, 2014
WE SHOULD hold a national celebration when our contingent of Filipino soldiers detailed at the Golan Heights, that disputed border and buffer zone between Israel and Syria, finally comes home after successfully evading armed Syrian rebels intent on capturing their United Nations outpost in that area.
It was no easy task for the more than 70 Filipino soldiers who had to wait for the cover of darkness to make good their escape - now being dubbed as the “greatest escape”- and walk more than two miles to the nearest UN outpost that would offer them relative safety. This is certainly one for the books and I can see a movie in the horizon depicting the heroic exploits of these courageous soldiers who remained composed despite almost insurmountable odds confronting them and use their wits to elude their would-be captors.
Their job was simple enough in the beginning, they were assigned in that UN mission at the Golan heights purposely to serve as United Nations Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) members whose duty is to oversee that peace prevails in that disputed area between Syria and Israel. Theirs was supposed to be a regular peacekeeping duty hence they were actually called UN peacekeepers. In trying to keep the peace these UNDOF members are armed precisely to defend themselves in case they are attacked or their UN outposts are breached by armed assailants. This actually happened several days ago when Syrian rebels, mostly belonging to the Al-Nusra Front (ANF) an Al Qaeda affiliate, decided to storm the Golan Heights after overrunning the Quneitra crossing, which is located on the de facto border between Syrian and Israeli controlled parts of the Golan Heights and attacked several outposts of the UN. First, to be attacked was UNDOF Area Position 27 manned by Fijian soldiers on the Syrian side of the armistice line. The Fijian peacekeepers outpost was surrounded and the Syrian rebels demanded that they surrender their firearms. As the reports reveal when these Fijian soldiers surrendered their firearms they were immediately taken hostage by the rebels are now being held captive by the insurgents who are making outrageous demands to the UN for the release of these soldiers.
Now Filipino soldiers who were also manning two UN camps also came under attacked by the Syrian rebels who demanded that they too surrender their firearms. Of course they refused and a standoff ensued. Their UN commander who was an Indian reportedly commanded our Filipino soldiers to lay down their firearms and surrender to the rebels when their outposts are breached. Again they refused to obey that order and instead engaged the rebels in an almost seven hour gunfight until they found a way of escaping towards a safer outpost.
That is our Filipino soldier.
Knowing that they would probably suffer the same fate as their Fijian counterparts who are now being held captive and used as a bargaining leverage by the rebels against the UN, they would rather shoot it out with the insurgents and pray to God that they survive the armed confrontation.
That they did. Spectacularly and splendidly with all of them surviving the rebel onslaught to tell their story of heroism.
What they did was a Filipino character that symbolizes courage despite overwhelming odds. Just ask the Japanese, Americans and Spaniards who were at the wrong end of the barrel of the gun or bolo held by Filipinos during previous wars.
At the very least our soldiers involved in the Golan Heights “greatest escape” should be feted by no less than the entire Filipino nation for their heroism and courage in going against these Syrian rebel/terrorists. As to that UN Indian general who gave the order of surrender and the laying down of arms well, let’s just accept his ignorance when he dealt with Filipino soldiers. He was not probably aware that surrender was never taught to our soldiers especially when circumstances permit the opportunity to capably defend one’s self.
Published in the Sun.Star Baguio newspaper on September 04, 2014.