By Joyce Ann L. Rocamora
MANILA – The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said no Filipino has been reported hurt so far in the ongoing Israel-Hamas war in Gaza, including in southern Lebanon where hostilities between the Iran-backed Hezbollah and Israeli forces are intensifying.
In a virtual presser on Wednesday, DFA Undersecretary Eduardo Jose de Vega said no Filipino has been able to exit Gaza as of yet pending the opening of a humanitarian corridor to Egypt.
Three of the 136 Filipinos in the besieged enclave are also still in Gaza City, where Israel is expected to mount a ground assault in response to the Oct. 7 Hamas rampage in southern Israel.
In Lebanon, 113 out of the 17,500 Filipinos there have sought for repatriation, de Vega said.
The three Filipinos still in Gaza City include a nun, and a father and child.
De Vega said the Filipino nun has decided to stay in Gaza City and that the DFA respects her decision.
The Filipino male and the child, on the other hand, were already in southern Gaza but returned to the city to check on his Palestinian father-in-law, who is staying at a hospital due to injuries.
“They are sheltered at a hospital, the same hospital where the father-in-law is staying over shrapnel wounds,” de Vega reported.
“The other Filipinos are still around various buildings in southern Gaza area so we hope that there will be decision that will allow them to cross,” he added.
De Vega said not all 136 Filipinos in Gaza wanted to be repatriated, and only 78 to 80 have expressed their intent to leave the coastal strip.
The official said this could go up but the Philippine Embassy in Cairo is ready for as many as 150, should relevant authorities allow their Palestinian spouses to pass through the border.
“Our main concern now is the Filipinos in Gaza because they’re the ones under a humanitarian crisis because of the lack of supplies and their situation is not ideal, it’s a war and they’re not even yet at the ground assault,” he said.
“Therefore, we reiterate, we join the call of the United Nations Secretary General hopefully for cessation of hostilities, for non-targeting as much as possible of civilians,” he added.
Meanwhile, de Vega said the Philippine Embassy in Beirut is still trying to ascertain the condition of about 100 Filipinos in southern Lebanon where skirmishes between Israel and Hezbollah have been ongoing.
“We’re still waiting for the final confirmation from the embassy as to how they are,” he said.
“What we know is that evacuation already began and hopefully everyone of them have been evacuated. Important thing is there’s no casualty,” he added.
The DFA had been calling on Filipinos in the entire Lebanon to return home due to rising tensions in the country as early as Oct. 20.
De Vega said the 113 Filipinos who wanted to leave are mostly from the capital Beirut and other parts of Lebanon.
“We have put Lebanon on Alert Level 3 so we reiterate to our kababayans (countrymen), the best is to return home while it is still (easy to get out),” he said.
“Mahirap na kung talagang full-scale war na, hintayin natin na matapos ito kasi mahirap na kung full-scale war na tulad noong 2006 (It will be difficult to mount repatriation if it becomes a full-scale war like in 2006),” he added. (PNA)