Damascus (AsiaNews) - The Syrian al-Nusra Brigade rebels have launched a direct attack against the contingent of 75 Philippine peacekeepers, blocked by the Islamic group on the Golan Heights under the control of Damascus. The Filippino Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin, announced the offensive but gave no account of possible victims. The contingent includes a Catholic priest, the military chaplain.
The attack began a few hours ago. In addition to the Philippine military - who are in the area on UN mandate, and therefore not allowed to open fire unless under direct threat - the Syrian rebels took hostage a group of 44 soldiers from Fiji, also UN "blue helmets".
According to the Military Ordinary in the Philippines Msgr. Leopoldo S. Tumulak, there is also a priest among the troops under attack, sent to take care of the spiritual needs of the peacekeepers. The bishop did not want to reveal the priest's name, probably to avoid any immediate retaliation against a Catholic priest if he falls into the hands of Islamist insurgents.
In a message sent to the site of the Philippine Bishops Conference, Msgr. Tumulak urged all Filipinos to "pray for the salvation of our brothers, who are peacemakers."