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DFA puts Gaza on Alert Level 3

Rest of Israel under Alert 2; Movement, deployment of Filipinos still suspended

The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) on Thursday put Gaza under crisis alert level 3, which calls for voluntary repatriation of Filipinos there, as heavy Israeli bombardments continued to hit the Palestinian enclave.

Foreign Undersecretary Eduardo de Vega said only Gaza was under Alert 3, while Israel remained under Alert 2, which restricts non-essential movement of Filipinos and suspends deployment of workers there.

Records showed that there are some 30,000 Filipinos in Israel, and 137 in Gaza, from which the Palestinian militant group Hamas fired thousands of rockets in a surprise attack on Saturday.

In response, Israel pounded Hamas targets in the Gaza Strip, a densely populated enclave of 2.3 million people.

WAR AND PEACE. Smoke plumes billow during Israeli air strikes in Gaza City on October 12 as raging battles between Israel and the Hamas movement continue for the sixth consecutive day. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and US Secretary of State Antony Blinken (left, above inset) also give statements to the media inside The Kirya, which houses the Israeli Defense Ministry, after their meeting in Tel Aviv. In Manila, the University of Santo Tomas (UST) placed a banner in front of its Arch of the Centuries featuring the hashtag “#USTandsforPEACE” and Shalom, the Hebrew word meaning peace, to echo Pope Francis’ recent call for justice amid the conflict. AFP with Norman Cruz

At least two Filipinos—both caregivers—have died in the conflict, authorities said.

De Vega said several Filipinos in Gaza have requested repatriation, but mounting evacuation flights remained a challenge as Israel continued to pound Hamas positions.

“There is a blockade in Gaza. That’s why we are looking for a diplomatic contact to allow some 70 Filipinos who had expressed willingness to be repatriated,” De Vega said.

In a radio interview, De Vega said there was no way in and no way out of Gaza. The Palestinian enclave, he said, has no water and no electricity.

More than 338,000 people have been forced to flee their homes in the Gaza Strip amid heavy Israeli bombardment, the United Nations said.

Israeli forces said 1,200 people, most of them civilians, were killed in the Hamas onslaught Saturday—the worst in the country’s history.

In Gaza, officials reported more than 1,000 people have been killed in Israel’s sustained campaign of air and artillery strikes.

At least 22 Filipino workers in Israel have asked for repatriation due to the escalating war there, the Department of Migrant Workers (DMW) said Thursday.

In a press briefing, DMW officer-in-charge Hans Leo Cacdac said the Filipinos who want to return home are made up of 19 caregivers and three hotel workers.

Cacdac said the Filipinos would be given immediate assistance and that the government is now preparing flights for their repatriation.

Preparations are also being made to send home the remains of Filipinos killed in the attack.

Cadac said repatriation from Israel would happen “soon.”

Palestine Ambassador to the Philippines Saleh Mohammad on Thursday said world leaders who expressed support for Israel amid its conflict with Palestinian militant group Hamas were sending a “wrong message” to Israel, which later on resulted in a “massacre” in the Gaza Strip.

He said messages of support were interpreted by Israel as a green light for a massacre in Gaza.

“It’s an ethnic cleansing of the Palestinian people from Gaza. So, please review this message. Look at those people who are getting killed. They are innocent people,” he added.

In other developments:

* Senator Risa Hontiveros said the DFA and DMW must be able to redirect available resources at their disposal to the conflict areas in Israel and Gaza. “I strongly urge the DFA and the DMW to position necessary resources for the swift implementation of their contingency plan to ensure the safety and well-being of Filipino nationals in Israel and Gaza,” she said.

* Pangasinan Rep. Maria Rachel Arenas on Thursday expressed sadness over the death of her fellow Pangasinense in Israel. “I strongly condemn the pointless killing of two innocent Filipinos caught in the fierce fighting between Israel and Hamas. This senseless violence must immediately stop to avoid further bloodshed and loss of life,” Arenas said in a statement.

“I know that you feel so much pain, especially since your loved ones were tragically taken away from you while trying to find safety and escape the combat zone. This is especially heartbreaking since they have nothing to do with this wretched conflict,” she said.

Arenas also assured the families of the victims that the government was ready to assist them “in every possible way.”

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