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 military chief says more than 70 Filipino peacekeepers have escaped from two areas in the Golan Heights that came under attack by Syrian rebels.

Gen. Gregorio Pio Catapang said Sunday in the Philippine capital, Manila, that the Filipino peacekeepers separately moved to positions that were safely away from any further threat.

According to Catapang, the Filipinos were surrounded by the rebels and had to return fire in self-defense before managing to escape after a seven-hour siege.

Catapang says: “We may call it the greatest escape.”

The clashes came after Syrian rebel groups, including the Nusra Front, overran the Quneitra crossing on the frontier between Syrian and Israeli controlled parts of the Golan on Wednesday, seizing 44 Fijian peacekeepers.