Gov’t forms task force as it verifies reports of Pinoys kidnapped during Hamas attack
President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. has ordered the Department of Migrant Workers (DMW) to locate and account for all Filipinos in Israel, where attacks by the Palestinian group Hamas on Saturday triggered Israeli airstrikes over the Gaza Strip.
Hamas launched a massive surprise attack at daybreak Saturday, firing thousands of rockets into Israel while its fighters entered Israeli communities near the Gaza Strip, killing residents and taking hostages. The attacks prompted Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to declare war on Hamas, ordering airstrikes that killed hundreds in the Gaza Strip, a Palestinian enclave.
“The government is closely coordinating with the Philippine Embassy in Tel Aviv and the Migrant Workers Office (MWO) in Israel to ensure the safety and welfare of Filipinos affected in the ongoing conflict,” Presidential Communications Secretary Cheloy Velicaria-Garafil said.
“The DMW has opened a hotline and several Viber and WhatsApp hotline numbers that will accept calls and queries from our OFWs and the Filipino community who are in need of government assistance,” Garafil added.
The Palace also said that the order from President Marcos also covers workers’ families affected by the war.
Migrant Workers Secretary Hans Leo Cacdac said his agency is checking on Filipino workers in Israel, especially in areas near the Gaza Strip, a Palestinian area governed by Hamas and blockaded by Israel and Egypt.
The DMW and the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) have formed a task force to assist Filipinos there, Cacdac said.
In a press conference over Zoom earlier Sunday, Israeli Ambassador Ilan Fluss Fluss said the Israeli and Filipino embassies were still verifying reports that Filipinos were among those kidnapped by Hamas militants.
“We are still in an emergency situation. Things have not yet stabilized. We don’t have enough information yet on identities and names of the people that were killed, injured, and kidnapped,” the Israeli ambassador said in a media briefing.
“We know there are Thai nationals involved but we are not aware of any Philippine nationals,” Fluss added.
“The Philippines conveys its deepest sympathies and condolences to those who have lost family members and loved ones in recent attacks. The Philippines condemns the attacks, especially against civilian populations,” Mr. Marcos said following Saturday’s surprise attack launched during a Jewish holiday.
“The Philippines understands the right of states to self-defense in the light of external aggression as recognized in the United Nations Charter,” he added.
Fluss said Israel would protect Filipinos working in the country as it would other members of Israeli society.
There are about 30,000 Filipinos in Israel, the ambassador said.
Fluss said commercial flights to and bound from Israel would continue despite the armed conflict.
International airports in Israel, including Ben Gurion airport in Tel Aviv are still operating, he said.
He said, however, that there have been flight cancellations.
The envoy said he does not expect the war in Israel to affect commodity prices there.
“In my personal analysis, I don’t see any global economic ramifications as to what is happening,” he said.
The Department of Foreign Affairs advised Filipinos in Israel to remain vigilant and follow the guidelines set by the Israel Homefront Command as it continues to monitor the ongoing tension.
The Philippine Embassy made the statement as it closed on Oct. 8 due to the Israeli government’s declaration of a “State of War.”
In successive Facebook posts, the Philippine Embassy in Israel advised Filipinos in the Holy Land to call the Embassy’s emergency number, +972-54-4661188.
In a statement, the DFA said the Embassy in Tel Aviv is verifying unconfirmed reports that 22 foreign workers from the Philippines and Thailand were killed, and another seven kidnapped by the Hamas militants.
“The Philippine Embassy in Tel Aviv has received these unconfirmed reports. We are still verifying them,” it said.
“We are monitoring and accounting for the number of Filipinos and overseas Filipino workers there. Our efforts continue. We are talking to them and their relatives,” the DMW said.
“There are shelters where they are safe. Some have been evacuated in some places but more often than not, they are safe in their shelters as we continue to account for our OFWs on the ground south of Israel. There are no Pinoys reported killed or injured,” Cacdac said.
He said they were able to talk to 20 Filipinos outside the battle-torn Gaza Strip.
Foreign Affairs Secretary Enrique Manalo said on X (formerly Twitter) that the “Department of Foreign Affairs is monitoring the situation of Filipinos in the Middle East.”
Speaker Ferdinand Martin Romualdez on Sunday denounced the attacks on civilians in Israel.
“Today, I join voices from around the world in strongly condemning the heartbreaking attacks against innocent civilians in Israel. The devastation and loss suffered by families during such significant moments of reverence are beyond words.”
“It is a reminder that the path of violence only deepens wounds and rifts. I urge all involved parties, especially the militant rulers of Hamas, to pave a way toward a peaceful resolution. The history of this region has seen enough bloodshed; sustainable peace is the only way forward,” he added.
Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri called on the DMW and the DFA to secure the Filipinos working in Israel and ensure their safe passage home, if necessary.
Senate Majority Leader Joel Villanueva also condemned the Hamas attacks on Israel.
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