MIDEAST ISRAEL SYRIA TOURISM: A sign showing the distances to different locations is seen at an army post from the 1967 war at Mt. Bental in the Golan Heights, overlooking Syria, Monday, Aug. 21, 2006. Speaking hours after an Israeli Cabinet minister called for renewal of negotiations with Syria and said Israel should give back the Golan Heights in exchange for peace, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert on Monday ruled out a resumption of peace talks at this time, denouncing Damascus as the "single most aggressive member of the axis of evil." Israel accuses Syria, along with Iran, of arming and supporting Lebanese Hezbollah guerrillas who fired nearly 4,000 rockets at Israel in the 34-day war that ended last week. (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit)

Manila - A firefight erupted on Saturday between a group of Philippine peacekeepers trapped in the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights and Islamist militants who were surrounding their position, the defence chief of the Philippines said.

About 40 Philippine troops manning one of two camps on the Syrian side of the frontier, identified as camp 68, came under attack at around 6 a.m. local time, Voltaire Gazmin told reporters via a mobile phone text message.

Another defence official said all the Philippine troops were safe.

A further 35 Philippines troops were at another site, known as camp 69, about 4 km (2.5 km) away but were not engaged in the firefight.

The troops are part of UNDOF, a U.N. force that has monitored the disengagement zone between Israel and Syria since 1974 in the wake of the 1973 Arab-Israeli war.

U.N. officials are trying to establish the whereabouts of 44 Fijian peacekeepers, also part of UNDOF, seized by al Qaeda-linked militants this week along the rocky frontier between Syria and the Golan Heights.

The Philippine troops, however, have held their ground for about 48 hours and have refused to give up their arms to the militants.

“There was a firefight but I would like to assure everyone that our troops are safe at the moment,” said Ramon Zagala, chief of the Armed Forces public affairs office. He did not give any more details.

The Fijian peacekeepers were captured from their post about eight kilometres away from the Philippine troops.