2 Filipinos killed in Israel-Hamas fighting

Richel V. Umel and Jeoffrey Maitem
Iligan and Davao, Philippines
2 Filipinos killed in Israel-Hamas fighting Members of the International League of People’s Struggle, a leftist organization, hold a rally and candlelight vigil in solidarity with the Palestinians in Quezon City, Metro Manila, Oct. 11, 2023
Gerard Carreon/BenarNews

Two Filipinos were killed in the new war between Hamas militants and Israel, the Philippines government said Wednesday as Muslims in the south protested against retaliatory Israeli strikes on the Gaza Strip. 

Meanwhile, a Moro Muslim leader in the war-ruined southern Philippine city of Marawi criticized former President Rodrigo Duterte for suggesting in televised remarks that if he were Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, he would turn Gaza into the “world’s biggest cemetery.”

“My heart is heavy upon hearing confirmation of the deaths of two Filipinos in Israel. The Philippines condemns these killings and stands firmly against the ongoing terror and violence,” President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. said in a statement on Wednesday.

Apart from the deaths of the two Filipinos, as many as 20 Thai nationals were killed and another 14 had been taken captive by Hamas militants, Thailand’s government said Wednesday.

Israel declared war on Hamas, the Palestinian militant and Islamic extremist group that controls the Gaza Strip, one of two territories under Palestinian rule, after Hamas fighters launched rocket strikes and carried out raids into southern Israel on Oct. 7 that left hundreds of people dead. The multi-front attack coincided with the Jewish holiday of Simchat Torah and came a day after the 50th anniversary of the start of the 1973 Arab-Israeli war

As of late Wednesday, more than 2,200 people on both sides had lost their lives in the explosion of violence in the region, the Associated Press reported. On the Israeli side, at least 1,200 have been killed and, in Gaza, at least 1,050 people have been killed with more than 5,000 others injured, AP said.

The Israeli military retaliated by pounding Gaza City with airstrikes and mounting a siege against the Palestinian territory, reports said.

Rockets are fired toward Israel from the Gaza Strip, Oct. 11, 2023. [ Fatima Shbair/AP]

In the largely Muslim-majority southern Philippines on Wednesday, hundreds of Filipino Muslims staged protests in downtown Marawi, the country’s only Muslim-majority city, against the Israeli strikes on densely populated Gaza – home to more than 2 million Palestinians.

Leftist protesters also held a vigil on Wednesday in Metro Manila in solidarity with the Palestinians.

Marawi was the venue of a five-month battle in 2017 between Philippine forces and armed Muslim extremists who had taken over the city’s center. Much of Marawi was destroyed by the military’s bombardment of the city as government forces fought with the militants to flush them out.

An estimated 1,200 people, including civilians and fighters on both sides, were killed in the fighting in Marawi that lasted from May to October 2017. Six years on, a large part of the city remains uninhabitable because authorities are still recovering unexploded mines and other ordnance.

Drieza Lininding, chairman of the Moro Consensus Group in Marawi, criticized Duterte for his comments on TV the night before.

“Duterte has no regard for innocent lives. His ignorance of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and his biased narratives expose his weakness,” he told BenarNews. “This kind of thinking has no place in a civilized world.”

On Tuesday, the ex-president said that he would have “crushed” Hamas, if it were up to him.

“I would tell them, ‘All of you, leave the place – I’m giving you 48 hours. If not, well, I’m putting you on notice,’” he said. “I will level it to the ground so that there’s no more Gaza to fight for.”

“I will make it a dead place. The good ones, the innocent ones, back off because I will pulverize it. And I will make it the biggest cemetery in the world. That’s what I would do if it were up to me,” he added.

It was under Duterte’s leadership then as commander-in-chief that the Philippines military battled with pro-Islamic State militants in Marawi and leveled the heart of the city with bombs.

The controversial former president, who is known for his inflammatory comments, also faces a high-profile investigation by The Hague-based International Criminal Court over his administration’s deadly “war on drugs” that killed thousands of people in the Philippines.

An Israeli mobile artillery unit fires a shell from southern Israel towards the Gaza Strip, in a position near the Israel-Gaza border, Oct. 11, 2023. [Erik Marmor/AP]

Filipino officials say about 30,000 expatriates work in Israel, while hundreds of others are believed to be residing in the country without formal documentation.

While two Filipinos died during the Hamas attack, the government said three others remained unaccounted for, and security forces had rescued 20 others.

On Wednesday, the Filipino ambassador to Israel, Pedro Laylo Jr., said the country’s workers in Israel were mostly safe.

“Despite the sporadic attacks and the distressing images you see on the news and on social media, these depict only certain areas in Israel, particularly in areas surrounding the Gaza Strip,” he told reporters. “The Israeli military has retaken control of the communities infiltrated by Hamas militants.”

Froilan Gallardo contributed to this report from Cagayan de Oro, southern Philippines


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