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40 Filipinos exit Gaza, now safe in Egypt

Pia Lee-Brago, Alexis Romero - The Philippine Star
40 Filipinos exit Gaza, now safe in Egypt
Palestinian dual nationals and foreigners wait to cross the Rafah border crossing with Egypt, in the southern Gaza Strip, on Nov. 7, 2023, amid the ongoing battles between Israel and the militant group Hamas.
MOHAMMED ABED / Agence France-Presse

MANILA, Philippines — Forty Filipinos have left the conflict-torn Gaza strip through the Rafah crossing, President Marcos announced yesterday, as he thanked the Philippine embassies in Israel, Jordan and Egypt and the Israeli and Egyptian governments for the safe passage.

In a video statement, Marcos confirmed that the Filipinos were on their way to Cairo in Egypt and would be repatriated in the coming days.

“I am happy to report that 40 of our countrymen have safely and successfully crossed the Rafah crossing in Egypt... We were able to arrange this because of the joint efforts of the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) and our embassies in Israel, Jordan and Egypt to assist our countrymen,” he said in Filipino.

“We also thank the governments of Israel and Egypt for prioritizing our countrymen so that they can leave their territory,” he added.

The President also acknowledged the mediation effort of Qatar, which paved the way for the reopening of the countries’ borders.

“I hope our remaining countrymen who want to come home will also cross the border safely with their spouses and loved ones,” he said.

The President vowed to provide more updates on efforts to ensure the safety of Filipinos in Gaza.

The DFA previously said the only safe way to exit Gaza is through the Rafah crossing.

Four Filipinos have been killed in the conflict between Israeli forces and Hamas, which started after the militant Palestinian group attacked a music festival in southern Israel and left hundreds of people dead last Oct. 7.

Citing data from Gaza’s health ministry, the United Nations said the death toll from the conflict has exceeded 10,000.

World Health Organization spokesman Christian Lindmeier has cited the need for a “political will to at least grant a humanitarian pause and access” to alleviate the suffering of civilians and hostages in Gaza.

The Palestinian husband of a Filipina has also safely crossed the Rafah border into Egypt, according to the DFA.

DFA Undersecretary Eduardo de Vega yesterday said 46 Filipinos were supposed to cross the border, but six from two families changed their minds and decided to remain in Gaza.

“The 40 Filipinos crossed the border. A Palestinian husband of a Filipina also joined them. He joined the Filipinos in crossing the border,” De Vega told The STAR.

Egypt allowed the Filipinos to exit the border on the condition that they cannot stay long in that country.

Alert Level 4 was raised by the DFA over Gaza on Oct. 15, requiring the mandatory repatriation of Filipinos.

“What we are calling for is already mandatory evacuation. Our embassy in Amman, Jordan is calling on you to go to the border and you will be allowed to cross. If you stay in Gaza at your own free will, there is no guarantee for your safety,” De Vega said.

Foreign Affairs Secretary Enrique Manalo thanked Israel, Egypt and Jordan for the assistance to Filipinos in crossing into Egypt.

“(I’m) very grateful that finally, an initial group of 40 Filipinos have safely exited Gaza and crossed into Egypt for eventual repatriation,” Manalo posted on X, formerly Twitter.

“I thank our partners, especially the governments of Israel and Egypt for their help, and commend the efforts of our embassies in Israel, Egypt and Jordan,” he said.

During a call of Qatar Ambassador Ahmed Saad Al-Homidi at the DFA, Manalo thanked Qatar for crucial mediation efforts in the opening of the Rafah border.

“We acknowledge and deeply appreciate Qatar’s crucial mediation efforts in the opening of the Rafah border crossing, allowing foreign nationals, including Filipinos, to exit Gaza and are united in our goal of a lasting peace in the region,” Manalo said.

A month since Hamas militants killed 1,400 people in Israel, and took 240 hostages, the Israeli offensive into Gaza continues.

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