The total number of Filipinos able to safely leave the conflict-stricken Gaza Strip since the Israel-Hamas war broke out has reached 98, the Philippine Embassy in Egypt announced Saturday.
This was after a third batch of 14 Filipinos finally crossed the Rafah border and entered the Egyptian territory on Nov. 10. Philippine Ambassador Ezzedin Tago said the 14 were accompanied by their Palestinian families and were welcomed by the embassy team led by Vice Consul Bojer Capati.
“This third batch of OFs (overseas Filipinos) will travel to Cairo,and another team of the Philippine Embassy in Cairo will assist them to their accommodations and will arrange their flights home,” he said.
Foreign Affairs Undersecretary Eduardo Jose de Vega earlier said 56 Filipinos were allowed to exit the border but the 14 decided to stay after their Palestinian relatives were “not cleared by Egyptian authorities at the border.”
On Friday, 34 Filipinos along with a Palestinian national were repatriated to the Philippines. The group was welcomed by Foreign Affairs Secretary Enrique Manalo.
Israel faced growing calls Saturday to protect civilians in Gaza as its battle with Hamas encircled the territory’s main hospital, where an aid agency described the situation as “catastrophic.”
Thunder-like sound of explosions rang through the night in heavy fighting between Hamas and Israeli forces near Gaza’s biggest hospital, Al-Shifa, AFP correspondents at the scene said.
Meanwhile, the chairperson of the House of Representatives committee on overseas workers affairs on Saturday commended the collective efforts of government agencies as Filipino evacuees from Gaza finally return home.
Overseas Workers Affairs Rep. Ron Salo, the panel’s chairperson, particularly commended the Office of the Undersecretary for Migrant Workers Affairs headed by Undersecretary Eduardo De Vega “for taking the cudgels of this undertaking.”
“I also commend our Embassy in Cairo led by Ambassador Ezzedin Tago, Embassy in Jordan under Ambassador Wilfredo Santos, and Embassy in Tel Aviv under Ambassador Pedro Laylo, for their unrelenting efforts to ensure the safe passage of our returning countrymen,” Salo added.
Salo said the proactive approach and dedication exhibited by Filipino officials have been instrumental in the operation, “showcasing the unwavering commitment to the welfare of our citizens abroad.”
Salo joined Manalo, De Vega, and Administrator Arnel Ignacio in welcoming the repatriates from Gaza composed of 35 individuals, including 34 Filipinos and 1 Palestinian spouse, at the NAIA Terminal 3 on Friday afternoon.
Notably, the six other individuals from the original group of 40 did not travel with this batch. Three family members have chosen to remain in Egypt with their Egyptian husband, while a 38-week pregnant wife, accompanied by her mother and child, is unable to travel.
All three individuals are Philippine passport holders, Salo said.