By GISELLE OMBAY, GMA Integrated News
The Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) said Sunday it is monitoring the situation of around 200 overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) based in the Gaza Strip where Palestinian Islamist group Hamas has fired a barrage of rockets from.
“Sa 200 OFWs dito sa affected areas sa Gaza Strip, dito tayo nakatutok,” OWWA Administrator Arnell Ignacio said in a Super Radyo dzBB interview.
(We are focused on the 200 OFWs in the affected areas in Gaza Strip.)
More than 24,800 Filipinos are in Israel and many of them are caregivers, followed by hotel workers and service sector workers, he said.
“Sa kabuuan ng Israel, mayroong tayong mga 24,807 [na mga Pilipino]. Pero dito sa nabanggit nating area na kritikal dito sa Gaza Strip — ‘yung Ashkelon, Ashdod, Sderot, estimated natin mga 200 OFWs ang meron tayo,” he added.
(We have about 24,807 Filipinos in Israel. But in the critical areas here in the Gaza Strip—Ashkelon, Ashdod, Sderot, we estimate that around 200 OFWs are there.)
Ignacio said authorities have accounted for five caregivers employed in Gaza, while they are still waiting for updates regarding six others.
He also pointed out that no Filipino has requested for assistance or repatriation yet.
“Sa experience namin with Israel, kadalasan sa mga pangyayaring ganito, bihira ang nagre-request for repatriation. But as soon as we get a request of this nature, especially to the DFA [Department of Foreign Affairs], kaagad namang ready naman tayo, as long as ma-clear ang channels natin to repatriate,” Ignacio said.
(Based on our experience with Israel, requests for repatriation are rare in situations like this. But as soon as we get a request of this nature, especially to the DFA, we are ready, as long as our channels are cleared to repatriate.)
On Saturday, Hamas launched the biggest attack on Israel in years, firing rockets and deploying gunmen to several Israeli towns. At least 22 people in Israel were killed. A “state of war alert” was issued by Israel’s Home Front Command thereafter.
Israel said the Iran-backed group had declared war as its army confirmed fighting with militants in several Israeli towns and military bases near Gaza.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, meanwhile, vowed to retaliate.
The death toll among Israelis climbed to at least 250 by Sunday morning, PH time. Meanwhile, more than 230 Gazans were also killed as Israel launched retaliatory strikes, according to a report by Reuters.
The Philippine Embassy in Israel announced early Sunday (PH time) that it will be closed beginning Sunday, October 8 “until further notice” due to the security situation.
The embassy earlier advised OFWs living near the Gaza Strip and south Israel to follow the safety guidelines released by the Home Front Command through an instructional video.
Some OFWs working at a hotel in the city of Hersliya headed to a bomb shelter while they were being interviewed by GMA Integrated News. —KG, GMA Integrated News