MANILA, Philippines—Two rapid response teams (RRT) were sent to Egypt and Israel on Monday to assist in the possible evacuation of some 100 Filipinos and their Palestinian spouses in the conflict-stricken Gaza, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said in a press briefing on Monday.
DFA spokesman Raul Hernandez said that most Filipinos married to Palestinians would not leave without their spouses. “So if ever there is a need to repatriate, maybe we have to also repatriate their spouses,” he said.
Hernandez said that although repatriation has always been for Filipinos only, “if our nationals will not leave without their families and we are so concerned about their safety, we might as well bring their families along with them.”
The DFA official said that “the RRTs are there to do an assessment of the condition, as well as to prepare for possible evacuation,” although there has been no reported Filipino casualty in the recent escalation of violence between the Israeli military and the Gaza-based Palestinian extremist group Hamas.
But the Philippine embassies in Egypt and Israel, which border the Gaza Strip, have identified possible exit points in coordination with authorities in the area, Hernandez said. “Some exit points in Israel are protected by Hamas (so) we’ll have to use other exit points in the contingency plans.”
There are about 41,000 Filipinos in Israel, according to the DFA spokesman, who said that as of Monday, there was no danger that would warrant an evacuation.
“Our priority (are) the Filipinos in Gaza Strip (which is) controlled by Hamas,” he added.
As of Sunday, no one has signified a request for evacuation, Hernandez said. “But we are preparing for the worst-case scenario,” he added.
The Filipinos “were alerted to be mindful of security and safety and to watch out for advisories from embassies,” Hernandez said, adding that families may call the DFA’s 24-hour hotline (632) 8433333 for updates on the situation in Gaza.