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PH plans Israel repatriation

The government hoisted Alert Level 2 over Israel to halt new deployments as authorities began identifying exit routes for a possible repatriation or evacuation mission.

The administration on Wednesday also said there is still no need to order the mandatory repatriation of Filipinos in Israel, even as the fighting between Israeli troops and Hamas terrorists raged into a fifth day.

Foreign Affairs Undersecretary Eduardo Jose de Vega said Alert Level 4, which calls for mandatory repatriation, is only “called when the country has broken down and the rule of law and everything about peace and order has broken down… throughout the country.”

ISRAELI BRIEFING. President Marcos walks with Israeli Ambassador Ilan Fluss in Malacañan Palace on Wednesday. The envoy briefed the President on the latest information from Israel following the attacks by Hamas militants from Gaza, while the Chief Executive assured the Jewish state that it will always stand with Israel. PCO Photo

“That is not the case in the state of Israel,” De Vega said.

He added that the fighting was intense on Saturday, the first day of the Hamas attack, but the situation had returned to a “certain sense of normalcy.”

Philippine Ambassador to Israel Pedro Laylo Jr. also said mandatory repatriation is still not recommended, even as two Filipinos were listed as casualties in the fighting between Israel and Hamas.

Laylo said the two fatalities happened during the day of the attack, and the Israeli Defense Forces have since regained control of areas overrun by the terrorists.

The Israeli government has prohibited the deployment of foreign workers to Israel—something the Philippines suspended when the war broke out on Saturday.

“We’re not going to deploy new workers, which is actually status quo anyway because we still have to negotiate…about caregivers and about the hotel workers by a government-to-government agreement. Right now, there is no deployment,” De Vega said.

The Department of Migrant Workers (DMW) said the deployment of workers has been put on hold due to the closure of Ben Gurion International Airport.

DMW officer-in-charge Undersecretary Hans Leo Cacdac clarified that there is no deployment ban yet to Israel, saying that Alert Level 3 must be raised to hold deployment of workers in war-torn Israel.

“This decision, while necessary for the safety of potential migrant workers, has led to public misinterpretation as a total deployment ban,” Cacdac said.

He said the DMW is in close coordination with Israeli counterparts and said deployment will resume once the airport reopens.

The current hold on deployment should not be mistaken as a total ban on deployment to Israel, the DMW added.

Meanwhile, the Philippine Embassy in Jordan is working with its counterparts in Israel and Egypt to identify possible exit routes for Filipinos seeking repatriation from Gaza, which has been the target of repeated Israeli air attacks.

Philippine Ambassador to Jordan Wilfredo Santos said that as of Wednesday, 51 Filipinos in Gaza were requesting repatriation as “they feel their safety is at risk” amid ongoing clashes between Israeli forces and the Hamas terrorists.

The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) later raised the number of Filipinos seeking repatriation from Gaza to 71.

“The three embassies are actually coordinating to ensure the safety of our nationals out of Gaza,” Santos said. “Since the start of this conflict, we have remained in touch to map out the preparations that we need for the safe passage of our nationals.”

Possible exit points are through Israel or Egypt, Santos said, noting that in either case, clearance will have to be obtained.

The ambassador said they were waiting for a “cessation of hostilities” before moving, since they cannot leave while clashes continue.

“We are just waiting for the proper time,” the ambassador said. “But of course, the best time is really as soon as possible.”

The DFA said the government is ready to assist the Filipinos who want to be repatriated from Gaza.

De Vega said while there were no concrete exit plans as yet, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) is ready to fly them home.

If the Filipinos are allowed to cross into Egypt, however, a commercial flight would be waiting for them, De Vega added.

Immediately following the outbreak of war in Israel, President Marcos ordered the Philippine Air Force to prepare its planes for any repatriation mission for Filipinos trapped in the affected region.

A C130 heavy lift aircraft and a C295 medium lift aircraft with complement aircrew, medical and security personnel are now ready to fly out as soon as directed by the AFP headquarters.

Thousands of foreigners have found themselves stuck in Israel and across the Palestinian territories, where a full-blown war has erupted since Hamas launched its surprise attack on Saturday.

With the violence having already killed thousands on both sides, several countries have launched operations to repatriate their citizens, while others plan to do so in the coming days.

Argentina, the Latin American country with the largest Jewish population, on Tuesday started evacuating more than 1,200 of its citizens from Israel.

Three air force flights a day will take the 1,246 Argentines who have asked to be evacuated to the Italian capital Rome, Defense Minister Jorge Taiana said.

Brazil’s government plans to mobilize at least six planes in a bid to rapidly repatriate any of its citizens who wish to leave Israel and the Palestinian territories.

It said that about 14,000 Brazilians live in Israel and 6,000 live in the Palestinian territories.

Some had already left on commercial flights, it said.

Nigeria has airlifted more than 300 of its citizens back home after they fled to Jordan from Israel, where they were on a Christian pilgrimage, the Lagos state government said.

The group was traveling from Bethlehem to Nazareth when they heard news of the attack in the south of Israel.

Switzerland’s foreign ministry announced Monday evening that Swiss International Air Lines would send a special flight to Tel Aviv on Tuesday to repatriate the country’s nationals.

Around 28,000 Swiss citizens and their families are officially registered as living in Israel and the Palestinian territories, the ministry said.

Spain organized a flight from Tel Aviv overnight to Wednesday with 200 people on board, its foreign ministry said.

A flight carrying 192 South Korean citizens took off from Tel Aviv and landed at the Incheon International Airport near Seoul early Wednesday, the foreign ministry said.

Another 30 South Korean nationals will be evacuated later in the week by commercial flights, it said, adding that 27 others, who were in Israel on a Christian pilgrimage, will go by road to neighboring Jordan.

The Canadian government said it would organize special flights from Tel Aviv later in the week for Canadian nationals, with help from the Canadian military.

French Foreign Minister Catherine Colonna announced on Tuesday that her ministry’s crisis unit was organizing a special Air France flight from Tel Aviv on Thursday to help repatriate any French nationals who have been unable to leave. With AFP

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