In a surprising turn of events, the Philippine government finds itself grappling with the prolonged duration of the Israel-Hamas conflict, a situation that has left numerous Filipinos stranded in the war-torn Gaza Strip. Initially anticipating a swifter resolution, officials from the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) express their concerns as the predicament of their citizens worsens.
Just over a week ago, the Filipinos in Gaza, who were seeking repatriation, were hopeful about their imminent departure to Egypt. However, the expected evacuation did not materialize, leaving them marooned in a perilous situation. DFA Undersecretary Eduardo Jose de Vega, addressing the issue during a recent briefing, lamented the unexpected delay. “Remember, we did not expect that it would take this long. As early as 10 days ago, 9 days ago, they were supposed to already start crossing, and then it didn’t happen,” he emphasized, highlighting the government’s unanticipated predicament.
The prolonged stay in Gaza has taken a toll on the Filipino expatriates. While food supplies have managed to sustain them thus far, the scarcity of potable water has become a pressing concern. Several Filipinos who initially fled the heavy bombardments in northern Gaza were forced to return south due to the lack of available shelters. Among those stranded in the conflict-ridden region are nine Filipinos in the northern part, including a nun, a father, and a child who sought refuge in a hospital, as reported by de Vega.
Adding to the gravity of the situation, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s refusal to heed the global call for a humanitarian ceasefire exacerbates the challenges faced by the trapped Filipinos. The ongoing military assaults by Israel in Gaza have claimed the lives of thousands, including innocent civilians, and have disrupted essential services. Gaza’s phone and internet services have been severed, intensifying the isolation and desperation of those trapped in the conflict zone.
The DFA officials have been tirelessly working to assist their compatriots amid these dire circumstances. Out of the 136 Filipinos initially in Gaza, they have successfully established contact with 115 individuals. However, 21 Filipinos remain unreachable, raising concerns about their safety and well-being.
In a concerning development, the government suspects that two Filipinos might have been taken hostage by Hamas militants in Gaza. DFA Secretary Enrique Manalo affirmed the government’s relentless efforts to locate and ensure the safety of these individuals. The situation remains fluid, with the Filipino community anxiously awaiting a resolution to this distressing ordeal.
As the conflict persists, the Philippine government remains steadfast in its commitment to safeguarding the welfare of its citizens abroad. The prolonged ordeal faced by Filipinos in Gaza serves as a stark reminder of the unpredictable and perilous nature of conflict zones, underscoring the need for continued diplomatic efforts and international cooperation to ensure the safety and well-being of all individuals caught in the crossfire of such conflicts.