More than 240 Filipino peacekeepers arrived in Manila on Friday after pulling out two weeks early from a U.N. mission in the Golan Heights because of escalating fighting in the border region, the Philippine military said Friday.

The 244 Filipino troops were welcomed by military chief of staff Gen. Gregorio Pio Catapang and other generals after arriving on a U.N.-chartered plane. A smaller group of 85 soldiers is to fly home Sunday from the Golan, ending a five-year Philippine peacekeeping role that has been marred by Syrian rebel kidnappings and attacks, military spokesman Lt. Col. Ramon Zagala said.

Among the Filipino peacekeepers were dozens who recently battled al-Qaida-linked Syrian rebels. The militants surrounded two U.N. camps on the Syrian side of the Golan buffer zone but the Filipinos defied a rebel demand for them to lay down their arms and surrender. The Filipinos fought back and then managed to escape from the camps, ending a dangerous standoff. […]