PM prepares to evacuate Thais from Israel
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PM prepares to evacuate Thais from Israel

Embassy checking reports of Thai workers kidnapped by Hamas fighters, one other Thai wounded

People work to put out a fire engulfing a van, as rockets are launched from the Gaza Strip in the nearby Israeli town of Ashkelon on Saturday morning. (Photo: Reuters)
People work to put out a fire engulfing a van, as rockets are launched from the Gaza Strip in the nearby Israeli town of Ashkelon on Saturday morning. (Photo: Reuters)

Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin has ordered the air force to prepare to evacuate Thai nationals from Israel as fighting between Israel and Hamas militants from Gaza intensifies.

“I want all Thai people to return home safely,” Mr Srettha said in a statement on his X (Twitter) account on Saturday night.

The statement came amid reports that two Thai workers had been kidnapped by Hamas fighters who had crossed into Israel, and had been taken back to Gaza.

The Thai embassy in Tel Aviv, along with Thai military attaches there, is trying to verify the reports, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a post on X.

An image posted online, showing the Hamas flag in the top left, purports to show captured Thai and Filipino workers in a darkened room, with a rifle pointed at them.

The embassy has been checking the reports with Israeli authorities but has been unable to confirm the information, said ministry spokesperson Kanchana Patarachoke.

One Thai national was shot in the leg during the Hamas incursion into Israel on Saturday, she said.

The injured person was identified only as a worker at a moshav (agricultural settlement) in Mivtahim, just 8km from the boundary of the Gaza Strip.

Ms Kanchana said the embassy had contacted the person, who was in good spirits, and arranged to have a doctor provide online medical consultation. Details of the person’s name, age or gender are not known.

Mr Srettha, meanwhile, said he had ordered the Royal Thai Air Force to prepare Airbus A340 and C-130 aircraft to evacuate Thai people from Israel immediately.

ACM Phanpakdee Pattanakul, the air force commander, has acknowledged the request and is ready to take action, the prime minister said.

“We strongly condemn this attack, which has tragically resulted in the loss of innocent lives and injuries to civilians,” Mr Srettha said. “We are extremely concerned for the safety of all foreigners, including Thai nationals.

“We are in close contact with the relevant authorities to ensure the safety and protection of our Thai citizens in Israel, which is of utmost priority. We also hope that the difficult situation in Israel will soon be overcome.”

About 5,000 Thais, out of some 25,000 working across Israel, are employed in areas around the Gaza Strip.

The early morning rocket barrage launched from the Gaza Strip by Hamas, along with incursions by Hamas fighters who have killed at least 40 Israeli civilians, appear to have caught Israel by surprise. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declared the country was “at war”.

Israel has declared emergency areas in an 80-kilometre range from the Gaza Strip, including Tel Aviv. Bunkers have been opened in many towns and more soldiers have been deployed.

Two Thai workers were killed and eight others wounded in a Palestinian rocket strike on an Israeli farm just over the Gaza border in April 2021.

That incident prompted Thai officials to review the risk facing workers in border area communities near the Gaza Strip.

Thai workers in Israel enjoy most of the same labour protections as their Israeli counterparts. If foreign workers are killed or wounded because of a war-risk hazard, Israeli authorities take full responsibility and pay compensation.

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