Hundreds of Philippine peacekeepers pull out early from Golan amid violence

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The Philippine military says the bulk of Filipino peacekeepers of more than 240 soldiers have pulled out two weeks early from the U.N. mission in the Golan Heights due to escalating fighting in the region.

Military spokesman Lt. Col. Ramon Zagala says the 244 Filipino troops will arrive in Manila on a U.N.-chartered plane on Friday. A smaller batch of 85 soldiers will arrive Sunday from the Golan, ending a five-year Philippine peacekeeping role that has been marred by Syrian rebel kidnappings and attacks.

Zagala says the long-planned withdrawal is not connected with differences between Filipino security officials and the U.N. peacekeeping force commander over the recent handling of a now-resolved hostage crisis involving Filipino and Fijian troops in Golan.