Thailand: At least 12 nationals killed, 11 held captive after attacks in Israel

Nontarat Phaicharoen, Wilawan Watcharasakwej, and Mariyam Ahmad
Bangkok and Pattani, Thailand
Thailand: At least 12 nationals killed, 11 held captive after attacks in Israel Palestinians inspect the destruction in a neighborhood heavily damaged by Israeli airstrikes on the Shati refugee camp in Gaza City, Oct. 9, 2023.
Mahmud Hams/AFP

UPDATED at 10:44 a.m. EDT on 2023-10-11

At least 12 Thais have been killed in Israel following attacks launched by the Palestinian militant group Hamas at the weekend, Thailand’s foreign ministry said Monday.

As of late Monday, the fighting between Hamas and the Israeli military – the deadliest between Palestinians and Israelis in 50 years – had left more than 1,100 dead and thousands more injured on both sides, reports said.

“The death toll has been confirmed at 12 [Thais], based on information from employers that was provided to the embassy,” Kanchana Patarachoke, a spokeswoman for the Thai foreign ministry, told a press briefing on Monday.  

She said eight Thais were being treated for injuries in hospitals and an additional 11 citizens were being held captive, but Kanchan did not elaborate. 

“We have been informed that the Israeli defense force has begun to evacuate Thais to safety from flash points,” she said. 

Israel’s military has hit back hard with the Jewish state formally declaring war on Hamas, an Islamic fundamentalist and Palestinian nationalist group, after the militants launched rocket strikes and raids into southern Israel near the Gaza Strip at dawn on Saturday. 

Israel has retaliated by fighting with Hamas militants to regain control of areas near the Gaza border and pounding the densely populated Palestinian enclave with airstrikes, reports said. On Monday, Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant said he had ordered a “complete siege” of Gaza, according to reports.      

The Royal Thai Air Force, meanwhile, has readied five C-130 transport planes and an Airbus passenger jet to bring citizens home once it was clear to fly, Kanchana said. 

While responding on Monday to parliamentary questions about the situation in Israel, Jakkapong Sangmanee, Thailand’s deputy minister of foreign affairs, said his department was still awaiting clearance from Israel to allow in Thai flights to evacuate Thai nationals. 

As for the nearly one dozen Thais believed to be in Hamas custody, he said the government was negotiating with the Palestinian Authority and Egypt “to help secure the release of the captured people.”

“At least 100 people of various nationalities, including Thai nationals,” had been “taken hostage,” Jakkapong said.

As of August, more than 4,533 Thais were working in areas of southern Israel close to the Gaza Strip, where many are employed as farm hands, according to the Thai Ministry of Labor. There are about 30,000 Thais working throughout Israel, according to the Thai Ministry of Foreign Affairs. 

In May 2021, a Hamas rocket attack on an agricultural estate near the Gaza Strip killed two Thai nationals and injured eight others.

A plume of smoke rises in the sky of Gaza City during an Israeli airstrike, Oct. 9, 2023, as Israel’s military relentlessly pounded the Palestinian territory overnight and into the day as fighting with Hamas continued. [Mahmud Hams/AFP]

Early Saturday morning, Hamas launched multi-front attacks that 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, reports said. 

The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) estimated that about 1,000 Hamas militants took part in the initial assault.

Subsequent fighting has killed at least 700 people in Israel and more than 400 have been killed in Gaza, according to a report by the Associated Press.

The violence has also affected scores of Filipinos working in Israel.

Seven Filipinos remained unaccounted for while 20 others had been rescued by Israeli forces amid the fighting, officials with the Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs said Monday. 

One of those rescued was being treated for moderate injuries at a hospital in the southern Israeli city of Be’er Sheva, said department spokeswoman Maria Teresita Daza. 

The Philippine Embassy in Tel Aviv had also received a report from a Filipina about the possible abduction of her husband by “armed individuals” after she said she had recognized him in an online video, Daza told BenarNews. The matter had been “urgently relayed” to Israeli military authorities, she said.

“[Seven] remain unaccounted for and cannot be contacted via their mobile numbers and social media accounts,” the embassy said. “The Embassy is working non-stop with Israeli security authorities and community contacts to ascertain their condition. We continue to await feedback from them.”

There are approximately 40,000 Filipinos in Israel, but only 25,000 are legally documented, according to labor and migrant groups.

The Philippine Embassy in Amman, Jordan had begun receiving requests for repatriations, Daza said.

A Cambodian student was also reported killed in the fighting in southern Israel on Saturday. 

Former Prime Minister Hun Sen said at a public ceremony of a film about his family that the government wouldn't be sending a special transport plane to bring students back to Cambodia unless the Israeli government said it was necessary.

There are more than 400 Cambodian students in Israel, he said. Many of them are working on farms and studying agriculture near the conflict zone. 

Sum Phirun, who works on a dairy farm along with two other Cambodians in Israel’s Karmia region, told Radio Free Asia on Monday that he was leaving the area, which is about 2.5 miles (4 km) from the Gaza Strip.

“Now, I am a bit busy,” he said. “I have to move from one location to another, thank you very much.”

Meanwhile, the Israeli army has secured the area around the Sedot Negev Agricultural Center, about 10 miles (17 km) from the Gaza Strip, where Cambodian students are studying agriculture, according to student Du Suchin.

‘We pray for them’

Since the fighting began, U.N. officials and Western countries have condemned the attacks by Hamas, while parts of Muslim Southeast Asia have expressed solidarity with the Palestinian people. 

In criticism clearly aimed at the West, Malaysian Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim said “the international community continues to take one-sided action regarding all forms of cruelty and oppression to the Palestinian people.”

Indonesia, the world’s most populous Muslim-majority nation, said it was deeply concerned with the escalation of conflict between Palestine and Israel, but added: “The root of the conflict, namely the occupation of the Palestinian territories by Israel, must be resolved, in accordance with the parameters agreed upon by the U.N.”

A digger removes rubble from a police station that was overrun in attacks by Hamas militants, in Sderot, Israel, Oct.8, 2023. [Ohad Zwigenberg/AP] 

Although Thai Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin joined many other international leaders in condemning the attacks by Hamas, some Malay-speaking Muslims in the country’s insurgent-hit Deep South said they felt for Palestinians. 

“We feel the pain of our Palestine brothers and sisters when they are at war,” said Hazim Salae, a resident of Yala city. “We pray for them to stay safe during this war.”

Abdullah Yusof, a resident of the southern province Pattani, said Muslims at several mosques in the region were praying for both Palestenians and the Thais in captivity.

“We are the same beings as Palestinians,” Abdullah said. “We have also raised some funds for them.”

BenarNews staff in Manila contributed to this report. RFA Khmer, the Cambodian service of Benar News-affiliated Radio Free Asia, contributed to this report. 

CORRECTION: An earlier version incorrectly reported that more than 4,533 Thais were working in Israel as of August 2023. 


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