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Leave Israel warzone as DFA confirms 3rd Pinoy death from Hamas attacks

The first batch of Filipinos fleeing the war in Israel will head for home on Oct. 16, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said, as it confirmed a third Filipino casualty Friday.

The third Filipino killed in the surprise attack by Hamas on Saturday was a 49-year-old woman from Negros Occidental, Foreign Affairs Undersecretary Eduardo de Vega said. Like the first two Filipino casualties, she too was a caregiver.

De Vega added that she was attending the music festival where Hamas gunmen slaughtered 260 civilians.

The most pressing concern at the moment, De Vega said, were the 131 Filipinos trapped in Gaza, which has been completely sealed off by Israeli troops who are bombarding Hamas targets in retaliation for Saturday’s attack.

Israel has imposed a total blockade on the Palestinian enclave and looks poised to launch a ground invasion on Gaza.

“[President Marcos] said that the immediate concern is repatriation, but nobody right now can get in or out of Gaza… so, repatriation, of course, is not yet possible at this time,” De Vega said.

De Vega said the government is waiting for the humanitarian corridors to open to allow the safe passage of humanitarian aid and refugees.

“This is a diplomatic initiative. We are in touch with other governments in the region. Of course, the United Nations will hold a session today, the United Nations Security Council and we expect them to call for a humanitarian corridor to allow civilians to leave,” he said.

The government is exhausting all diplomatic initiatives to bring Filipinos home safe, he said.

De Vega said about 92 Filipinos who are trapped in Gaza want to be repatriated.

The Philippine embassies in Egypt and Jordan are now preparing for the repatriation of Filipinos in Gaza, with its officials already on the border to assist them once the humanitarian corridor opens.

But still, there is no guarantee that Filipinos and other nationalities would be given smooth entry into Egypt from Gaza, De Vega said.

“They may also wait one day, two days, three days, like what happened in Sudan. So, we’re counting on the UN—and, of course, there will not just be Filipinos; there will be other nationalities as well. Of course, we have to anticipate the possibility… that only foreigners will be allowed out,” he said.

“Our embassies in Cairo and Amman are already arranging their travel documents and passports. So they have the papers to be able to travel to the Philippines. The question is.. safe entry to Egypt. But we are working on that, in full accordance with the instruction of the President,” he added.

De Vega said the government is hoping that the repatriates will be taken care of once they are at the border.

“I’m sure the international community, the Red Cross, and other organizations will find a way to provide them food and all that in case they have to stay at the border while their papers are being processed,” he said.

Meanwhile, about 22 Filipinos—out of about 30,000 in Israel—have also opted for repatriation after fighting between Israeli troops and Hamas terrorists escalated, De Vega said.

De Vega said they were not direct victims of the war, but may have lost their jobs or facing hard times because of the fighting.

“The first batch at the government’s expense will be leaving on Oct. 16—there are eight of them… And as promised, once they arrive, they’ll be given the proper assistance, the usual reintegration and other assistance packages provided by the DMW (Department of Migrant Workers) and OWWA (the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration),” he said.

The Philippine embassy in Tel-Aviv earlier said that apart from areas near the combat zone in southern Israel, the situation in Israel has largely stabilized.

The surprise attack by Hamas killed 1,200 people in Israel and terrorists took about 150 hostages in their surprise attack launched from Gaza on Saturday.

Israel retaliated by raining air and artillery strikes on Hamas targets in Gaza for six days, claiming more than 1,400 lives.

The first two Filipino fatalities have been identified as Angeline Aguirre, 32, a nurse, and Paul Vincent Castelvi, a 42-year-old caregiver.

Aguirre was killed after she chose to stay with her elderly patient as gunmen shot up a bomb shelter in Israel.

Castelvi, who was also killed in a bomb shelter by Hamas gunmen, was supposed to fly home for Christmas.

The Philippine government earlier said that they were processing the return of their remains.

The Philippines on Thursday placed Gaza under Alert Level 3, meaning voluntary repatriation could start. Alert Level 2 was raised over Israel, meaning the deployment of Filipino workers there was suspended.

Israel is home to at least 30,000 Filipino workers, most of them caregivers.

The Department of Social Welfare and Development said it was ready to assist Filipino migrant workers repatriated from Israel and Palestine.

Meanwhile, De Vega said that in the West Bank, another Palestinian territory that is separated from Gaza, some 70 Filipinos there are doing well.

“They are not in danger because there are no hostilities there and the official Palestinian government is in favor of a diplomatic solution to their issues with Israel,” he said.

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