The government on Saturday enforced a mandatory evacuation of Filipinos in the Gaza Strip amid the intensifying conflict between Israel and Palestine’s Hamas militants.
“In view of the threats to security posed by the Israel-Hamas conflict to Filipinos in the Gaza Strip, the Department of Foreign Affairs has raised Alert Level 4 (Mandatory Repatriation) in Gaza,” a DFA statement said.
There are nearly 100 Filipinos, mostly women married to Palestinians and their offspring, who have remained in Gaza. This week, 10 Filipinos—three women and six children—returned to the Philippines.
“The Philippine embassies in Cairo, Tel Aviv, and Amman are ready to repatriate Filipinos from Gaza in coordination with concerned authorities of Israel, Egypt, Jordan and the United Nations and other International Organizations operating in Gaza,” the DFA said.
Alert Level 2 was raised in areas in Israel within 15 kilometers from the border with Gaza while alert Level 1 remains enforced in the West Bank and in the rest of Israel.
The DFA said it continues to closely monitor developments as it called for the “cessation of hostilities to prevent further loss of innocent lives.”
Meanwhile, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius called for an “urgent” truce in Gaza and renewed support for an Egyptian initiative accepted by Israel but spurned by its Hamas foes.
Fabius issued the call at a Cairo press conference after talks with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, who is rallying international support for Cairo’s ceasefire proposal.
Israeli troops clashed with Gaza militants at the border Israeli media quoted Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch as saying Saturday, without specifying on which side of the frontier they were.
Earlier, Hamas’s military wing, the Ezzedine Al-Qassam Brigades, said they had battled Israeli troops inside the Jewish state.
“The Qassam Brigades carried out an operation behind enemy lines,” it said in a statement. “Heavy fighting is ongoing with the forces of the occupation.”
The Israeli army did not confirm or deny the claim.
Three Palestinians were killed in fresh Israeli air strikes in Gaza on Saturday morning, among them a six-year-old child, medics said.
A man injured in an earlier air strike also died of his wounds, emergency services spokesman Ashraf al-Qudra said, raising the toll on the 12th day of violence in Gaza to 318 Palestinians.
Israel launched its ground offensive late Thursday, starting a new phase in the operation which it said was aimed at destroying tunnels used by the territory’s dominant power, Islamist movement Hamas.