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Friday, May 31, 2024

PBBM mourns 2 dead Pinoys, 3rd casualty possible

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Two Filipinos were killed following the attack of Hamas terrorists on Israel, while a third fatality is being confirmed, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said Wednesday.

President Marcos condemned the deaths as he mourned the overseas Filipino workers who died while working in the Jewish state and vowed to continue supporting his affected countrymen.

“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,” the President said in a statement.

Legislators led by Speaker Ferdinand Martin G. Romualdez on Wednesday also mourned the killing of Filipinos.

Mr. Marcos stressed that the Philippines will remain resolute in pursuing lasting peace in line with the United Nations resolutions and international laws.

“The Philippines condemns the killing of two Filipino nationals and all other acts of terrorism and violence as a result of Hamas actions against Israel,” Foreign Affairs Secretary Enrique Manalo added in a post on the social media platform X.

“The Philippines is ready to work with other countries towards a long-lasting resolution to the conflict, in accordance with pertinent UN Security Council resolutions and the general principles of international law,” Manalo said.

The DFA said it is still confirming a possible third Filipino fatality in the ongoing war between Israeli forces and Hamas terrorists.

“There is a third possible death, and there’s a DNA testing going on, to check if it is in fact one of the Filipinos missing,” DFA Undersecretary Eduardo de Vega said in a virtual briefing.

Deputy Chief of Mission Anthony Mandap of the Philippine Embassy in Israel also said “there are two confirmed [dead] and one for confirmation.”

De Vega also said three more Filipinos remained unaccounted for.

The DFA earlier announced that two Filipinos had been killed in the raging conflict.

An official from the Philippine Embassy in Israel said the Filipinos were killed in a kibbutz on the first day of the attack when Hamas terrorists executed and abducted civilians.

Labor Attaché Rudy Gabasan said one of the fatalities—a caregiver–was gunned down along with her employer when Hamas terrorists forced open the door to their residence. The other fatality, he said, was among those abducted by Hamas.

The families have asked the government not to disclose the identities of the victims.

Ambassador to Israel Pedro Laylo Jr. said President Marcos would talk to the grieving families of the victims today to send his sympathies.

“Last night in the most difficult phone call of my career, I spoke to the wife of the victims to inform her of this sad news and to convey our sympathies. I promised her that the Embassy will provide all the necessary assistance she needs,” Laylo said.

“The President will also speak to her today to convey his personal condolences and offer additional assistance,” the ambassador added.

The embassy said the fatalities were a 33-year-old female from Pangasinan, who was working in Israel for six years, and a 42-year-old male from Pampanga.

The DFA earlier reported that six Filipinos remain missing.

Two Filipinos were also injured from the massive surprise attack and are now recovering, the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) said.

Manalo said the government will continue to provide all possible assistance to distressed Filipinos in Israel and Palestine.

Israel is home to at least 30,000 workers from the Philippines, most of them caregivers, while 167 Filipinos are in the Gaza Strip.

The DFA has already proposed to President Marcos to place the Gaza Strip, which has been placed under a total siege by Israel in response to Hamas’ attack, under Alert Level 3, which means voluntary repatriation can begin.

On Saturday, Hamas launched its biggest attack on Israel in years, firing rockets and deploying gunmen to several towns, prompting the Israeli government to declare war on Hamas.

Israel launched retaliatory air strikes on Gaza, with the death toll on both sides already in the hundreds and continuing to rise.

The Philippine Embassy in Tel Aviv has been closed due to the conflict, but it may still be reached through its emergency number +972-54-4661188, its assistance to nationals number 050-9114017, and its email address telaviv.pe@dfa.gov.ph.

For their safety, Filipinos have been advised to stay indoors and follow the instructions of local authorities.

The DFA said it is coordinating with Israeli authorities and local contacts to ascertain the condition of Filipinos who are still missing.

Philippine diplomats in Tel Aviv are also providing assistance to evacuated Filipinos in hotels where they are housed as well as checking hospitals for possible admitted nationals.

The DFA thanked Israeli security forces for the rescue of the Filipinos caught in the combat areas, as well as the Israeli emergency services and kibbutz authorities who included Filipino nationals in their evacuation operations.

Vice-Consul to Tel Aviv Patricia Narajos reported the death of a third Filipino in Israel.

“Of the 32 that were reported missing to us, there are two confirmed deaths; [and] one reported death,” Narajos said.

“There are still three missing and 26 have been rescued so far,” she added.

Narajos said that the newly reported casualty is still being verified.

The President previously ordered all concerned government agencies to locate all Filipinos affected by the conflict and ensure the welfare of the overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) and the Filipino community amid the ongoing hostilities.

“The recent loss of two Filipino nationals serves as a somber reminder of the heavy toll conflict takes on innocent lives. I join the nation in our unequivocal condemnation of all acts of terrorism and violence, especially as a result of the actions of Hamas against Israel,” Romualdez said.

“We earnestly appeal to all combatants to exercise utmost restraint and ensure the safety of civilians, including our fellow Filipinos. Upholding the tenets of international law and the relevant UN Security Council resolutions is essential, and the Philippines stands ready to cooperate with the international community towards a peaceful and lasting resolution,” the House chief added.

Rep. Ron Salo of the Kabayan party-list group, and chairman of the House committee on overseas workers affairs, expressed his condolences to the families of the two Filipinos killed in the Hamas attack on Israel.

Salo said the incident should move the Philippine government to take decisive steps to ensure the safety the Filipinos in Israel.

Pope Francis called Wednesday for the immediate release of hostages taken in fighting between Hamas and Israel, and expressed his concern over the siege of Gaza.

“I ask that the hostages be released immediately,” the 86-year-old head of the worldwide Catholic Church said at the end of his weekly audience at the Vatican.

He added: “It is the right of those who are attacked to defend themselves, but I am very worried about the total siege in which the Palestinians live in Gaza, where there have also been many innocent victims.

“Terrorism and extremism do not help reach a solution to the conflict between the Israelis and Palestinians, but fuel hatred, violence, revenge and only make both sides suffer.

“The Middle East does not need war but peace, a peace built on justice, dialogue and the courage of fraternity.”

The death toll from five days of ferocious fighting between Hamas and Israel rose sharply overnight as Israel kept up its bombardment of Gaza Wednesday.

In Israel, the death toll from Saturday’s shock cross-border assault by Hamas militants rose to 1,200, making it the deadliest attack in the country’s 75-year history.

Meanwhile, Gaza officials reported more than 900 people killed as Israel pounded the territory with air strikes.

Senator Imee Marcos said the country’s distance from the main arena of conflict will not insulate Filipinos from violence.

“As an ally of the United States, which has committed military support to Israel, we risk retaliatory attacks from militant Hamas sympathizers that a protracted war will likely provoke,” she said.

“We import practically all of our oil supply from the Middle East,” she also said.

Despite the recent assurance of six members of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries to support market stability, Senator Marcos said the country remains vulnerable to the winds of geopolitics.

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