MANILA - The Philippines aims to pull out 342 soldiers on peacekeeping duties in the Golan Heights, nearly half the number of its UN peacekeepers worldwide, after the abduction of four Filipinos near the Syrian border, the foreign minister said on Friday.
Albert del Rosario said he had sent a recommendation to President Benigno Aquino to withdraw the peacekeepers from the Israeli-occupied area, explaining that the four peacekeepers were being held by Syrian rebels as human shields against attack by government forces.
The four were taken hostage on Tuesday.
"Our recommendation ... is for the early pullout of our people because we believe the exposure now is beyond tolerable limits," Del Rosario told reporters.
"Abduction of peacekeepers is a gross violation of international law and we give great importance to the safety and security of our peacekeepers."
The Philippines has deployed more than 800 soldiers in UN peacekeeping operations in eight hotspots across the globe. Nearly 350 of them are on duty in the ceasefire zone in the Golan Heights.