2 Pinoys out, 134 more await exit from war-torn Gaza
Two Filipino doctors have made it out of Gaza Strip as part of the first batch of civilians allowed to leave the war-torn Palestinian enclave nearly a month after being trapped in the renewed conflict between Israel and the militant group Hamas, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said on Thursday.
Darwin dela Cruz and Regidor Esguerra were among the 400 people granted passage through the Rafah border crossing to Egypt on Wednesday. The DFA said more than 130 Filipinos were still awaiting evacuation in Gaza where aid agencies have warned about the dwindling humanitarian aid.
Dela Cruz and Esguerra are both members of Doctors Without Borders (DWB), a global outreach organization that delivers emergency medical aid to people in crisis. It is currently active in more than 70 countries.
The two Filipinos were brought along with the other evacuees to Ariah City in Egypt, some 30 kilometers from the Gaza border.
They were to be transferred to Cairo, and from there may be given a new country of assignment by the DWB, according to Foreign Undersecretary Eduardo de Vega.
Hoping for 2nd opening
A total of 134 Filipinos remained in Gaza, most of them in Southern Palestine and away from Gaza City where the Israel Defense Forces have been concentrating airstrikes targeting Hamas positions.
Of this number, 115 Filipinos are waiting for the Rafah crossing to be opened for the second time, while the 19 others—including a nun engaged in helping civilians—remain undecided about leaving Gaza, the DFA added.
Despite the escalating bombardment, the DFA said, there have been no report of Filipinos being killed or wounded in Gaza itself, although four have died in the cross-border Hamas assault on Oct. 7 on the Israeli side.
‘While it is taking some time to secure permission from relevant authorities for Filipinos to exit Gaza and enter through Rafah, the secretary for foreign affairs and the relevant units in our headquarters in Manila, as well as our ambassadors in Israel, Egypt and Jordan have been working closely with authorities of Israel and Egypt and are ready to undertake the movement should the list of Filipinos for evacuation from Gaza be approved,” the DFA said.
7,500 in 2 weeks
On Wednesday, Foreign Secretary Enrique Manalo wrote to Israeli Foreign Minister Eli Cohen and Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry asking their governments to issue the necessary permits for the remaining Filipinos in Gaza to pass through Rafah.
“The DFA remains committed to ensuring the protection of kababayans who are caught in this unfortunate situation,” the department said.
The first group of civilian evacuees from Gaza crossed into Egypt under a Qatari-mediated deal on Wednesday while Israeli forces bombed the Palestinian enclave from land, sea and air anew as they pressed their offensive against Hamas militants.
The people being evacuated to Egypt had been trapped in Gaza since the start of the war more than three weeks ago.
After weeks of waiting, of hoping, the gates at Rafah opened and whole families—struggling under the weight of their few remaining worldly possessions—rushed across the heavily fortified frontier.
They included at least 320 foreign passport holders and some severely injured Gazans, three Egyptian sources and a Palestinian official said, the first beneficiaries of a deal brokered between Egypt, Israel and Hamas.
A diplomatic source briefed on Egyptian plans said some 7,500 foreign passport holders would be evacuated from Gaza over the course of about two weeks, adding that Al Arish airport would be made available to fly people out.
Diplomats said initial foreign national evacuees were expected to travel by road to Cairo and fly out from there.