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PH worries over Iran, Israel conflict

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The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said the Philippines has expressed concern over developments in the Middle East as Iran launched a retaliatory attack on Israel amid the latter’s ongoing war with Hamas militants in Gaza.

The DFA on Monday also urged all parties to refrain from escalating the situation and work toward a peaceful resolution of the conflict.

“The Philippines expresses its serious concern over the increasing tensions between Israel and Iran,” DFA said.

On Saturday, April 13, Iran launched dozens of drones and missiles toward Israel in retaliation to the airstrike on the Iranian Embassy in Syria that killed at least 16 people.

Israel has not claimed responsibility nor denied the attack on the Iranian embassy.

However, the strike on the embassy came amid the heightened conflict between Israel and Hezbollah, Iran-based terrorists who are sympathizers of Hamas.

In a statement, the Israeli Embassy in Manila said Israel “is ready for any scenario, both defensively and offensively.”

“Whoever harms us, we will harm them. We will defend ourselves against any threat and will do so level-headedly and with determination,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said.

The embassy also cited Iran, particularly its Revolutionary Guard Corps, for holding as hostage four Filipino seafarers, among other crew members, of a Portuguese civilian cargo ship on the Strait of Hormuz.

The Israel Embassy in the Philippines  on Monday assured the safety of the Filipinos in Israel as he justified Tel Aviv’s rights to take defensive actions against attacks.

 Israeli Ambassador to the Philippines Ilan Fluss said he is “happy to enter into a dialogue” with Filipino officials to explain Israel’s mechanisms to ensure the safety and security of the people there.

 Fluss, who is now in Jerusalem, said everything seems normal in Israel despite threats it is facing from Iran, which launched dozens of drone and missile attacks on the Jewish state over the weekend.

 “I’m seeing what’s happening now and it’s really impressive. It’s not like… you feel that it’s a country at war,” he said, in a Zoom press briefing.

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres already warned that the Middle East is now on the brink of a full-scale conflict amid Israel’s current war with Hamas militants in Gaza, and its tension with Iran that stemmed from the bombing of its diplomatic compound in Syria.

The international community, including the Philippines, already called for the deescalation of tension. But Israel remained firm in its stand to defend its state, calling Iran’s attack that happened in an unprecedented scale as “unacceptable” and “a breach” to international law.

Israel said it is “ready to respond. In what kind of response when, where, this is something…which is open. And the Israeli Defense Forces and our leadership is not sharing with the media,” Fluss said.

Two party-list members of the House of Representatives on Monday expressed concern over the fate of the Filipino seamen who were on board the ship that was seized by Iran in the Strait of Hormuz. 

Party-list Reps. Marissa Magsino of OFW and Ron Salo of Kabayan also condemned the incident. 

Magsino said: “As a representative of our Overseas Filipino Workers, including our seafarers, I strongly condemn the hijacking of the Portuguese cargo ship MSC Aries in the Strait of Hormuz.” 

Salo said: “The incident has placed four Filipino seamen in an extremely precarious position. It highlights the continued vulnerability of our overseas mariners who are among the most affected in any international conflict.” 

At the same time, Salo commended  the immediate response of the Department of Migrant Workers (DMW), in coordination with the Office of the President, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), and the manning agencies that deployed the affected seamen. “They have all worked diligently to reassure the families of the victims and for coordinating efforts aimed at securing their safe release,” Salo, chair the House Committee on Overseas Workers Affairs,added. 

Both Magsino and Salo reiterated the importance of the “Magna Carta of Filipino Seafarers,” a legislative measure that aims to bolster the rights and welfare of Filipino maritime professionals.


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