AMID US AIR STRIKES

Filipinos must leave Syria immediately – DFA

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Some 2,300 Filipinos in Syria are urged to immediately avail of the Philippine government’s mandatory repatriation program there amid the start of US air strikes against a Syrian extremist group.

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Charles Jose, spokesman for the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), said in a text message on Tuesday that crisis alert level 4, or mandatory repatriation, is still raised on the whole of Syria.

Alert level 4 has been raised there since December 2011 because of a civil war triggered by the Arab Spring in March of that year.

The DFA had repatriated 5,473 Filipinos from Syria as of September 2014.

Jose said neither the de-partment nor the Philippine Embassy in Damascus has received information that the 2,300 Filipinos remaining in Syria have been affected by the air strikes.

The repatriation program is ongoing, he added.

“Hopefully, more OFWs [overseas Filipino workers]will avail of the repatriation program,” Jose said.

On Tuesday (Manila time), the United States confirmed that it began its bombing of Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) targets inside Syria.

This is the first time that US President Barack Obama authorized a military operation against an Arab nation after he decided to pull out Amer-ican troops from Iraq and Afghanistan during his first term in the White House.

The air strikes primarily focused on the ISIS stronghold of Raqqa, although other locations were hit as well.

Obama earlier announced the expansion of military efforts beyond Iraq, the US response to the beheading of two American journalists by the jihadist group.

A British aid worker was also beheaded recently.

The US called on its allies and partners to join an international coalition it heads to take down the al-Qaeda-linked group.

On the air strikes, all foreign partners joining the US were Arab countries such as Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates and Jordan.

Reports said Qatar was also involved, though the extent of its military operations was not clear.

The US used jet fighters, jet bombers and Tomahawk missiles in its bid to cripple the Islamic States’ command and control, resupply, logistics and training ground.

The Foreign Affairs department called on the next-of-kin of Filipino workers in Syria to get in touch with the embassy through the following contact details: 00963-11-6132626, 00963-949155557, 00963-934957926 or through damascuspe@gmail.com.

The relatives are asked to provide information on their family members’ whereabouts, so that “immediate assistance can be extended to them.”

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