TWO Filipinos have been confirmed killed in the Israel-Hamas conflict, Foreign Affairs Secretary Enrique Manalo said Wednesday.
The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said the Philippine Embassy in Israel is verifying reports of the “likely death of a Filipino woman” earlier reported missing in the attack on a farm. The embassy said it would confirm through DNA evidence if the woman is a Filipino.
The embassy’s labor attaché and welfare officer are “on the ground to assist the sister of the said Filipina in confirming this with the Israel Police,” DFA spokesman Ma. Teresita Daza said in a statement.
“The Philippines condemned the killing of two Filipino nationals and all other acts of terrorism and violence as a result of Hamas actions against Israel,” Manalo wrote on X (formerly Twitter).
Also on Tuesday, the DFA reported that one of the seven Filipinos reported missing in Israel has been found safe.
This reduced the number of missing Filipinos to six — two males and four females.
Daza said that of the 29 Filipinos initially reported missing, 23 have been found or rescued.
As a matter of policy, the Philippine Embassy in Israel will not disclose the identities of the deceased “in line with the families’ request for privacy,” the DFA said.
Meanwhile, the Philippine government is working closely with Israeli authorities for the repatriation of the remains of the two Filipinos.
Grief over death of Filipinos
President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. on Wednesday expressed his grief over the death of two Filipinos caught in the Israel-Hamas conflict and denounced the violence of the terror attacks.
“My heart is heavy upon hearing confirmation of the deaths of two Filipinos in Israel. The Philippines condemns these killings and stands firmly against the ongoing terror and violence,” Marcos said in a statement.
He also vowed to provide support to overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) and the Filipino community affected by the ongoing battle.
Meanwhile, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) said it is ready to evacuate affected Filipinos in Israel.
AFP spokesman Medel Aguilar. Photo from PCO
At a Palace press conference, AFP spokesman Medel Aguilar said two C-130 and one C-295 aircraft were on standby and ready for deployment.
Aguilar said the AFP would send the aircraft to two identified “airports of embarkation” where the overseas Filipinos could gather and be fetched. These are the Haifa Airport in Haifa, Israel, and Ben Gurion Airport in Tel Aviv, Israel.
The DFA said there are 30,000 Filipinos in Israel and over 100 in the Gaza Strip.
Sen. Ana Theresia “Risa” Hontiveros has urged the DFA and the Department of Migrant Workers (DMW) to pre-position necessary resources for the swift implementation of their contingency plan to ensure the safety of Filipinos in Israel and in Gaza.
“With the escalating threat of violence extending beyond Israel, the DFA and DMW must be able to redirect available resources at their disposal to these conflict areas,” the senator said.
Sen. Jose “Jinggoy” Estrada pressed for the utilization of the Emergency Repatriation Fund (ERF) of the DMW to finance the needs of the affected OFWs.
Estrada said of the P8.9 billion allocation in the ERF of DMW for 2023, only P693.5 million or 7 percent was utilized.
80 OFWs seek assistance
So far, more than 80 OFWs in Israel and their families have availed of the Task Force Israel Hotline, which was created by the DMW and Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) to address the concerns of Filipino workers in Israel.
OWWA Administrator Ariel Ignacio said that they established a command center at the OWWA main office in Pasay City, where all calls for assistance and concerns of Filipinos in relation to the Israel-Palestine conflict pass through.
Ignacio also disclosed that there were 313 OFWs from the southern part of Israel who confirmed that they were safe.
Israel pounds Gaza targets
Israel kept pounding Hamas targets in Gaza, where entire districts lay in rubble Wednesday, as its forces found more victims five days after the Islamist militants’ onslaught on its southern towns.
The army said a “staggering 1,200” bodies had been discovered, mostly of unarmed civilians, while Gaza officials reported more than 900 people killed in a withering campaign of air and artillery strikes on the crowded Palestinian enclave.
Israel has massed forces, tanks and other heavy armor around Gaza in its retaliatory campaign against what Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu labeled “an attack whose savagery… we have not seen since the Holocaust.”
US President Joe Biden has pledged to send more munitions and military hardware to its close ally Israel and expressed revulsion at the “sheer evil” of the slaughter of civilians in the unprecedented Hamas assault launched Saturday.
With reports from Kristina Maralit, Catherine S. Valente, Reina C. Tolentino, Javier Joe Ismael, William B. Depasupil and Moises Cruz