By Anna Leah Gonzales

WAR IN ISRAEL. Ambassador Ilan Fluss on Sunday (October 8, 2023) says the Israeli Defense Forces will initiate a large-scale operation against the Hamas. He said the attacks of Hamas so far caused more than 200 casualties. (Screenshot from Israeli Embassy in Manila’s virtual briefing) 

MANILA – The Philippine government on Sunday condemned the ongoing escalation of fighting in Israel and assured that it is closely coordinating with the Philippine Embassy in Tel Aviv to ensure the safety of Filipinos.

“The Philippines condemns the attacks, especially against civilian populations,” the Office of the President said in a statement following the surprise attacks carried out by the Hamas group against Israelis on Saturday and the eventual retaliation of Israeli forces against the Palestine group.

“The Philippines conveys its deepest sympathies and condolences to those who have lost family members and loved ones in recent attacks,” the statement said.

“The Philippines understands the right of states to self-defense in the light of external aggression as recognized in the United Nations Charter,” it added.

In a separate statement, the Presidential Communications Office said President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. instructed the government to closely coordinate with the embassy in Tel Aviv and the Migrant Workers Office in Israel to help Filipinos affected by the ongoing conflict.

The two offices have been directed to immediately locate and account for all overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) and their families in Israel.

The Department of Migrant Workers opened a hotline, Viber and WhatsApp numbers that will accept calls and queries from OFWs and the Filipino community who are in need of government assistance.

Call for support

Meanwhile, the Israeli Embassy in Manila urged allied nations to support Israel and condemn the attacks.

“In this moment of anguish, we call on our friends and allies to express strong support for Israel and to condemn these terror attacks by Hamas. We expect the international community and our close allies to condemn terror and express support for Israel’s right to defend itself and its citizens,” Israeli Ambassador to the Philippines Ilan Fluss said in a virtual briefing.

Fluss said the massive terror attacks caused more than 250 Israeli casualties, more than 1,600 injured, and more than 100 Israelis kidnapped and captured as hostages in Gaza.

“Hamas continues to fire rockets into Israel. The terrorist organization entered our cities and residential homes targeting innocent Israeli citizens including elderly people, women, and children,” he said.

Fluss clarified that while there were reports of foreign nationals being kidnapped, it was not yet clear if there were Filipinos involved.

“Israel is still under attack. There are terrorists, the terrorists still operating in the southern part of Israel and Israeli Defense Forces are still fighting and trying to gain full control over the situation,” he said.

“I heard about the reports of Philippine nationals. We do not have at this stage, any confirmation regarding Philippine nationals. We know that there are Thai nationals involved but we are not aware of Philippine nationals. As I said at this stage, the situation is still evolving, and we’re still gathering a lot of information,” he said.

Fluss said the Israeli Defense Forces will have to respond to the attacks, initiating a large-scale operation.

He noted that Israel has the full right to respond and protect itself and it is the responsibility of the government to bring to safety and secure its citizens and foreigners living in Israel.

“We do appreciate the kind messages and support that Israel is receiving from our Filipino friends. As we navigate these challenging times, a resounding message reverberates: Stand with Israel, condemn the attacks by Hamas, and reject terrorism unequivocally,” Fluss said. (PNA)