Americas News

HAMAS TERROR ATTACKS IN ISRAEL CONDEMNED; 3 Filipinos among thousands dead; free hostages — Pope

By ALFRED GABOT, Editor in Chief

TEL AVIV/VATICAN/WASHINGTON/MANILA — Following the death of three Filipinos from Pangasinan and Pampanga and a possible third Filipino, world leaders like United States  President Joe Biden and President Ferdinand Marcos, Jr. condemned the Hamas militants for their unprecedented terror attacks in Israel that led to killing of hundreds of people, including Americans.

Proclaiming that the Philippines stands with Israel which hosts some 30,000 Filipinos after a meeting with Israeli Ambassador Ilan Fluss in Malacanang, Marcos assured that the Philippine government will do what it could to help Filipinos affected by the conflict, including possible repatriation of those wanting to return to the Philippines.

“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,” Marcos, Jr. said in a statement.

Marcos said the Philippine government would remain resolute in the pursuit of lasting peace, in line with the United Nations resolutions and international laws.

In Vatican, Pope Francis, speaking before thousands of people in St. Peter’s Square, called for the release of all hostages taken by Hamas militants, adding that Israel has a right to defend itself.

The Pontiff, at the same time, expressed grave concern over Israel’s siege imposed on Gaza.

Although authorities withheld the names of the slain Filipinos, Department of Foreign Affairs officials said one was from Pangasinan and the other from Pampanga. A third one is still being confirmed through DNA testing, the DFA said.

The United States has mobilized its military forces to assist in diffusing the conflict as it prerpared humanitarian mission with food and supplies for those affected on both sides.

At press time, at least six Filipinos remain unaccounted for in Israel as 70 Filipinos have expressed their intention to be repatriated to the Philippines. The Armed Forces of the Philippines said it has readied military planes to evacuate affected Filipinos to safer place like Egypt or Jordan.

Marcos earlier instructed the Department of Migrant Workers and the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration to locate and account for all OFWs and their families in Israel.

He had also instructed all agencies involved in protecting the welfare of the OFWs and the Filipino community to work closely with the Philippine Embassy in Tel Aviv and the Migrant Workers Office in Israel to ensure their safety.

“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,” said Foreign Affairs Secretary Enrique Manalo in a post over X, formerly Twitter.

“The Philippines is ready to work with other countries towards a long-lasting resolution to the conflict, in accordance with pertinent United Nations Security Council Resolutions and the general principles of international law,” he added.

Manalo assured the public that the Philippine government would continue to provide all possible assistance to distressed Filipino nationals in Israel and Palestine.

 Meanwhile, an official of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines-Episcopal Commission for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People (CBCP-ECMI) expressed sympathies to those who died, including two Filipinos, in the ongoing conflict between Israeli forces and Palestinian militant group Hamas.

In a statement, CBCP-ECMI vice chair Bishop Ruperto Santos said they are also praying for strength for the families of the two Filipinos who perished in the attack.

“We remember with tremendous sorrow those who lost their lives, especially our two OFWs (overseas Filipino workers). We commend them to God’s mercy to welcome them in His Home, and to His healing love for the bereaved family. May God sustain them, with His grace make them strong and keep them safe and secured in this very trying time,” the Antipolo bishop said.

In a Malacañang briefing, Philippine Ambassador to Israel Pedro Laylo Jr. said the identities of the two Filipinos will not be disclosed at this time as their families requested privacy.

Embassy officials, however, divulged that the Filipinos were a 33-year-old female from Pangasinan, who has been working in Israel for six years, and a 42-year-old male from Pampanga.

Vice Consul Patricia Narajos also gave the latest figures about Filipinos in Israel: 26 rescued or found, three missing, and one injured.

Narajos added the third reported death will still be confirmed through DNA testing.
Also at a briefing, Labor Attaché Rudy Gabasan said one of the fatalities was gunned down by the members of the militant group as they tried to open the doors of their residence. The other fatality was supposedly seized by the Hamas group, he added.

“Iyong isa po ay habang pinupuwersa ng militanteng mga terorista iyong kanilang pinto, pagbukas po ng pinto, niratrat po iyong mag-amo, iyong caregiver at saka iyong kaniyang amo,” Gabasan said.

(The other fatality, while members of the militant group was forcing to open their door, they were gunned down, the caregiver and her employer.)