MANILA – No Filipino has been reported to be among the casualties in the escalating exchange of airstrikes and rocket fires between Israel and Palestinian militant group Hamas, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) reported Wednesday.
In a statement, the agency assured that the Philippine government has contingency plans in place for any developments in Israel where a total of 29,473 Filipinos are currently working and residing.
"So far, our embassy in Israel has not received any report of Filipino casualties. The embassy is in touch with Filipino organizations and networks; shelters are there to provide refuge, including for Filipino workers," it said.
In a separate statement dated May 11, the Philippine Embassy in Tel Aviv advised the Filipino community in Israel to stay vigilant and postpone or cancel travel plans to places near the border of Gaza.
It asked them to avoid going to the West Bank (Bethlehem, Jericho, Hebron, etc.) and the following areas in Jerusalem, especially on Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays:
- Temple Mount
- Damascus Gate
- Herod's Gate
- Al Wad Road
- Musrara Road
- Areas around East Jerusalem, including Sheikh Jarrah, Silwan, At-Tur (Mt. of Olives, Ras Al-Mud, and Issawiyah)
If possible, the embassy said the Filipino community must not approach the Israeli security force stationed in the above-mentioned "sensitive areas".
The embassy also advised Filipinos residing in the country to find the nearest bomb shelter or protected area from the residence and head there when the need arises.
Among others, they were urged to take extra precautions when riding public vehicles and were advised to stay behind the metal/cement barriers away from other passengers when waiting for their ride.
"Kapag nakarinig ng putok ng baril, may nakitang kaguluhan, o kung nasa gitna ng nagaganap na kaguluhan o karahasan, magtago/umiwas at dali-daling umalis sa lugar. Kung kasalukuyang bumibiyahe sa pampublikong sasakyan, yumukong mas mababa sa antas ng bintana ng sasakyan at takpan ang inyong ulo (If you hear a gunshot or see a commotion, take shelter to a safer place immediately. If you are traveling, take caution and position your head lower than the car's window)" it said.
In case of emergency, the embassy said it may be reached at +972.54.466.1188. Affected Filipinos may also contact the Israeli authorities at 100 (Police), 101 (Ambulance/Emergency Service), 102 (Fire), 104 (Home Front Command), 106/107/108 (Municipality Call Center).
Dozens of casualties, including children, were recorded following the intense aerial exchanges between Israeli forces and Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip since 2006. A report from Israeli newspaper Haaretz said five were killed in Israel and at least 35 in Gaza.
The United Nations said the ongoing hostilities mark a dramatic escalation of tensions linked to the potential eviction of Palestinian families from East Jerusalem by Israeli settlers and access to Haram Al-Sharif/Temple Mount compound.
UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process Tor Wennesland urged both sides to de-escalate the conflict, fearing the latest developments may lead to a "full-scale war".
"Stop the fire immediately. We’re escalating towards full-scale war. Leaders on all sides have to take responsibility for de-escalation. The cost of war in Gaza is devastating and is being paid by ordinary people. UN is working w/ all sides to restore calm. Stop the violence now," he said over Twitter on Wednesday. (PNA)