Gregorio Pio Catapang

Philippine military chief General Gregorio Pio Catapang Jr. answers questions from reporters about the situation of Filipino peacekeepers in Golan Heights during a press conference at Camp Aguinaldo military headquarters in Quezon city, Philippines on Sunday Aug. 31. Pic: AP

MANILA, Philippines (AP) — The Philippine defense chief says Filipino peacekeepers in the Golan Heights have been attacked by Syrian rebels who are holding dozens of Fijian troops hostage.

Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin told reporters Saturday in a series of text messages that Filipino troops manning one U.N. encampment have been “extricated,” while soldiers in another encampment were “now under attack.”

He said the attack started early Saturday Syrian time.

Gazmin did not say whether there were any casualties. Asked how the troops were doing, he said they had “high morale.”

The Syrian rebels have seized 44 Fijian peacekeepers and demanded that the 75 Filipinos manning two separate U.N. encampments surrender their weapons, but they have refused.