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The Battle of the “Gulang” Heights

August 31st, 2014 - 2:42 am

A minor drama just concluded in the Middle East.  A couple of days ago, Syrian rebels identified with the Nusra front, Syria’s al-Qaeda affiliate, went up to a Fijian United Nations peacekeeping outpost on the Golan Heights and demanded their surrender.

The events began Thursday morning on the Syrian side of the Golan Heights, an area divided between Israel and Syria.

Tikoitoga said three vehicles filled with about 150 armed rebels converged on the Fijian camp at about 7:30 a.m.

He said the rebels demanded the Fijian soldiers leave within 10 minutes and insisted they board the rebel vehicles. The Fijians were then taken by the rebels to an unknown location.

The Fijians were taken into Nusra’s custody and the action moved to positions 68 and 69 on the Golan heights ceasefire line, which was manned by a Philippine battalion.  The Nusra people made the same demand.  ’Give us your weapons and come with us.’  It was here that the Philippine commander made a crucial decision.

He refused.

Gulang

Perhaps flustered by the refusal, Outposts 68 and 69 were invested by Nusra.  Thereafter events moved pretty quickly with most of the news coming the Camp Aguinaldo in the Philippines, rather than UN HQ.   The communiques at first conveyed the impression that there was no big deal.  But in the next few hours it was clear that wheels were turning.  Both 68 and 69 came under fire last night, but the morning brought news that the garrison of 69 was withdrawn into Israel covered by the Irish contingent, which was the quick reaction force of the UN on Golan.  The Israelis opened the border to let them through.

Tonight the Times of Israel says the garrison of 68 withdrew successfully as well.

After coming under rebel attack Saturday, the first group of 35 Filipino peacekeepers was successfully escorted out of UN encampment in Breiqa by Irish and Filipino forces on board armored vehicles, said Gen. Gregorio Pio Catapang and other military officials.

Another group of 40 Filipino troops had remained trapped at another encampment, called Rwihana, by more than 100 gunmen who rammed the camp’s gates with their trucks and fired mortar rounds after the Filipinos refused to surrender with their weapons and instead returned fire in self-defense, Philippine military officials said.

Syrian government forces fired artillery rounds from a distance at one point to prevent the Filipino peacekeepers from being overwhelmed by the rebels, said Col. Roberto Ancan, another Philippine military official, who helped monitor the tense Golan standoff and mobilize support for the besieged Filipinos.

The 40 Filipinos fled with their weapons from the Rwihana encampment under cover darkness overnight, traveling across the chilly hills for nearly two hours, before meeting up with other UN forces, which escorted them to safety early Sunday, Philippine officials said.

“Everyone is in a safe position. We left our (old) position but we brought all our arms,” said Lieutenant Colonel Ramon Zagala….

During the siege, the Philippine secretaries of defense and foreign affairs, along with the country’s top military brass, gathered in a crisis room at the military headquarters in the capital to muster support for the Filipino forces and help ensure their safety. The Syrian and Israeli governments provided support, Filipino military officials said without elaborating.

“We may call it the greatest escape,” Catapang said.

The UN line is clearly finished.  And the rebels are now rubbing up against Israel’s borders without a buffer.  The Fijians are still unaccounted for. In objective terms the situation is as grave as ever.  But the Philippine battalion’s outposts were not added to the bag of hostages.

Early in the crisis, one comment in Tagalog at a local news site summed up the strategy. “Laban muna bago pugot ulo“, a Tagalog phrase which literally means, “fight me first before you cut my head off.” It may be rendered more loosely as “death before decapitation”.

The Philippine brass are clearly jubilant as the photo at Times of Israel shows.

Nobody ever expects the Philippines to win battles in wartime. It is too weak and poor and disorganized for that. But the population demands of its army that they never be outfoxed. You might die, so long as you die in style. And if you make a fool of the enemy in the process then there is victory of a sort. This quality is called “gulang” in Tagalog.

Israel remembers its epic victory in the Golan Heights; the triumph of heroism over great odds. The Philippine battalion may not claim as much for victories are not won by retreats. But on the other hand, they still have their heads, and for that they may thank the fateful decision to risk death before decapitation.

Yet if victory there was none, they will remember, with fondness in the years to come the Battle of the Gulang Heights.


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Top Rated Comments   
Six months of daily analysis and discussion of this blog would provide a greater liberal arts education than 3 years time wasting at a modern academy. Certainly edifies me, makes one want to think, want to speak, always inspiring stuff:-)
11 weeks ago
11 weeks ago Link To Comment
Is this the same UN that would guarantee Israel's safety if Israel gives up half of its country for peace? Just asking.
Does no one realize that this is really a global war against Western civilization? It is all Muslims, IS, Iran, Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas, Fatah, Al Qaeda and the rest, against Christians, Jews, Hindus and the "wrong" brand of Muslims. They have already moved on Europe, using open boarders and multi-culturalism. Much of Europe, having forgotten WWII and the 70 million dead, are opening their arms to them as the French always welcomed invaders. www.israel.com
11 weeks ago
11 weeks ago Link To Comment
Wretchard, I share your pride in the Pilipino victory. There is something to be said of accepting death before dishonor. That is the very essence of the Alamo.
11 weeks ago
11 weeks ago Link To Comment
All Comments   (86)
All Comments   (86)
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I suspect memories are long among the warriors in the AFP.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Manila_massacre

11 weeks ago
11 weeks ago Link To Comment
So, really the UN forces are there to quell the threat of Israeli misdeeds and run from all others.
11 weeks ago
11 weeks ago Link To Comment
DOES ANYONE REMEMBER THE ITALIAN UN PEACEKEEPING FORCES IN GAZA?
Wonder what happened to them.
11 weeks ago
11 weeks ago Link To Comment
The rational thing for Nusra to do is let the Fijians go, and to heap them with gifts besides. In that way they can incentivize surrender. All successful conquerors through history have pursued the policy of "surrender you live, resist you die". Genghis Khan comes to mind.

But ISIS especially has adopted the opposite policy. Surrender and die. Resist and live. They've incentivized resistance. The Filipino decision to resist shows the wisdom of "laban muna bago pugot ulo". Why should you surrender if submission means a radical haircut?

So if Nusra knows what is good for their cause, they should throw a big going away party for the Fijians and hire a band to play at it before sending them on their way. If they were rational, that is.
11 weeks ago
11 weeks ago Link To Comment
No, too logical. But ISIS does prosper on fear. Tremble before them and run or surrender. Jewish Israel is probably their ultimate enemy, once the unite the Umma. I wonder how eager they are to mix it up with the IDF at this point? Given some encouragement from certain quarters, I think that the IDF could extinguish most of ISIS.
11 weeks ago
11 weeks ago Link To Comment
Outstanding.
11 weeks ago
11 weeks ago Link To Comment
Bahala na
11 weeks ago
11 weeks ago Link To Comment
They may be small, poor and without much fame, but their hearts are in the trim.
Give them the right flank to guard.
11 weeks ago
11 weeks ago Link To Comment
--a little dog in a big fight, but a big fight in the little dog --
11 weeks ago
11 weeks ago Link To Comment
BRAVO ZULU to the Filipino military. No one expected them to defeat a massive attack. Especially with a UN chain of command and a logistics train stretching around the world. Their duty was to be the tripwire indicating that there was no more hope of peace. Which they have done. And survived. And retained their honor. And added to the honor of the Philippines.

Filipino forces facing China now have an example of what to do when attacked. As do Filipino politicians. For to surrender and retreat would mean to dishonor what happened at "Gulang Heights" and the country itself.

Funny thing about honor and courage and performance of duty. It rings down through the ages and across the miles.

As does the betrayal of honor, courage, and duty. Something that the Obama regime, the Democrats, and the New Whigs do not comprehend.

The Fijian soldiers are probably occupying a filled in slit trench, in layers, somewhere between Golan and Damascus. Which is the likely fate of any person or nation that depends on the honeyed words and history of emasculated deeds of the UN.

Matters are in the hands of the Great Blue Sky Tengri Nor, who only knows what the outcome will be.

Our fate is in the hands of the Bipartisan Governing Class in DC. At best the issue is in doubt. Do not plan or assume the best.

Subotai Bahadur
11 weeks ago
11 weeks ago Link To Comment

Well said, Subotai! I can add only the following:

First thought: The Filipino units did not "flee", as was stated in the Times of Israel article. They made a fighting withdrawal, particularly the platoon at position 68 which extracted themselves on foot. BZ, indeed.

Second thought: It's a shame that a refusal to acquiesce in beheading seems a moral victory to us.
11 weeks ago
11 weeks ago Link To Comment
Exactly. Brave men not "losing their heads" so to speak. An organized withdrawal, to live for another day. I have a sense that Filipino soldiers, even under the auspices of the UN, had a good grasp of what militant Islam is all about.
11 weeks ago
11 weeks ago Link To Comment

HONOR FIRST

To the outnumbered and surrounded Filipino battalion:

Surrender? Nay!
If die we must
We’ll not betray
Our country’s trust

11 weeks ago
11 weeks ago Link To Comment
--retired AF Gen McInerny on FoxNews just now recommended the US go to DefCon 1 immediately, because 'we do not know what is coming at us'.

He didn't say it, but we might want to think it, we don't know anything, possibly because

https://www.google.com/search?q=is+brennan+a+muslim+convert&rls=com.microsoft:en-us:IE-SearchBox&ie=UTF-8&oe=UTF-8&sourceid=ie7&gws_rd=ssl
11 weeks ago
11 weeks ago Link To Comment
--on the strength of that McInerny interview, this is entirely worth the two minutes needed to read it, or better, the four minutes to read it twice:

http://www.financialsensearchive.com/stormwatch/geo/pastanalysis/2008/1107.html
11 weeks ago
11 weeks ago Link To Comment
...excellent read, buddy...

This is what is wrong with Israel's ceasefire ending its third war with Hamas: it is based on deceit and cowardice. It will fail.

This opinion piece from the Jerusalem Post touches on much of the same subject matter.
http://www.jpost.com/Opinion/Op-Ed-Contributors/How-to-assure-another-Gaza-war-in-two-years-A-12-step-program-372715
11 weeks ago
11 weeks ago Link To Comment
buddy, doesn't t DefCon 1 entail immediate launch?
11 weeks ago
11 weeks ago Link To Comment
According to Sheldon Cooper, it does.
11 weeks ago
11 weeks ago Link To Comment
I dunno what the technicals are, R2 --only that he said it, and he's a regular military affairs commentator on Fox, not a wild man brought in for show-and-tell. He did add a few words along the line of, the purpose would be to raise awareness of the people of how serious the situation --and he meant Russia as well as ISIS and presumably the US domestic --including border --situation actually is right now, not threatening to be tomorrow but right now today.

Nixon went to DefCon 3 --didn't he? --during the 73 mideast war --when Russia threatened to intervene on Egypt's side?

IIRC, Russia had begun loading paratroopers aboard transport aircraft, when Nixon went to DefCon 3 and russia began then unloading the paratroops.
11 weeks ago
11 weeks ago Link To Comment
According to the Wikipedia DEFCON entry, DEFCON 1 is “Cocked Pistol” - nuclear war is imminent - maximum readiness; DEFCON 2 is “FAST PACE’ - next step to nuclear war; armed forces ready to engage in less than 6 hours; DEFCON 3 is “Round House” - increase in force readiness above that required for nomral readiness; Air Force ready to mobilize in 15 minutes.

The highest we ever got was DEFCON 2 during the Cuban missile crisis. You are right about the Yom Kippur War, we got to DEFCON 3.

Also, as you mentioned, the Soviets were threatening to send paratroopers to Cairo even as IDF armour was driving on the Egyptian capital after crossing the Suez. Now there's good grist for a "what if" encounter scenario!
11 weeks ago
11 weeks ago Link To Comment
It was also rumored in a book I read once called "Inside the Puzzle Palace" (about the NSA) that the Soviets were deploying nuclear armed IRBM's in Egypt to launch on Israel if Egypt was actually over-run. Would Israel have used nukes in return on Egypt?
Bingo, WWIII. That Nixon, what a scamp he was. Probably prevented WWIII, but it was JFK that starred down Ivan over Cuba. Hero!!
11 weeks ago
11 weeks ago Link To Comment
--such as, in the event of a large flash overhead, you crouch down, put your head as far down as possible between your knees, and kiss your ass goodbye --

:-\
11 weeks ago
11 weeks ago Link To Comment
...probably what Watergate was --revenge for just that. Tell me again how the Jews control the press -?
11 weeks ago
11 weeks ago Link To Comment
11 weeks ago
11 weeks ago Link To Comment
Guatemala --that must be that lost tribe --
11 weeks ago
11 weeks ago Link To Comment
Some would say "lost" but with a different meaning.
11 weeks ago
11 weeks ago Link To Comment
Nixon also took us off the Gold standard, and it is also rumored that the consequences of that was also a reason for the Watergate "revenge". If you also read "Secret Coup", it is rumored the whole break-in was to steal an appointment book for a call-girl that had John Dean's name in it, a woman that John Dean later married. Layers and layers of corruption in both parties and dirty trick. Hey, it's a graduate level civics course. "RealPolitik".
11 weeks ago
11 weeks ago Link To Comment
--i think this part isn't a rumor, but that may be my prejudices showing --that what magnified the break-in to the resignation of a president (and the betrayal of South Vietnam via the election of the 'watergate congress') was a visit to Katherine Graham's WaPo office by one Teddy Kennedy, where he asked and she complied, to keep the teapot tempest above the fold and in the hands of the paper's big dawgs, until it had blown up into a quick march to another Kennedy in the White House, the way to expunge the national trauma of the assassinations of the sixties --and one might safely assume, to get rid of that uncool westerner Nixon.

And the press, needless to say, needles touche, has never recovered from the rape of its former high-minded civic mission.
11 weeks ago
11 weeks ago Link To Comment
Washington DC is a company town, the business is Government, and the biggest patron is the Democrat Party, since the days of FDR and the New Deal. He increased the size of the bureaucracy and the regulatory state by leaps and bound. The WaPo is just the mouthpiece for the Democrat Party.
11 weeks ago
11 weeks ago Link To Comment
Democratic party operatives with bylines, as the instapundit likes to say --
11 weeks ago
11 weeks ago Link To Comment
There's a reason the WasPo is known as the world's longest inter-office memo.
11 weeks ago
11 weeks ago Link To Comment
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