Two killed in Israel
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Two killed in Israel

Air Force prepares plane for evacuation

Two Thais have been killed, while eight were injured and 11 captured in Israeli-held territories as Hamas launched an assault on targets beyond the Gaza Strip, prompting the government to send an aircraft to evacuate Thai citizens living near the conflict zone.

The Thai Ambassador to Israel, Pannabha Chandraramya, who spoke in a briefing organised by the Foreign Affairs Ministry in Bangkok yesterday, said Israeli forces were still engaged in battle with Hamas militants, and had so far managed to secure two areas claimed by Hamas.

Ms Pannabha, who spoke via telephone, said the Thai workers who were taken hostage weren't Hamas targets, but were simply in the wrong place in the wrong time.

Foreign Affairs Minister Parnpree Bahiddha-Nukara said that out of the eight Thai citizens injured in the clashes, five have been admitted to hospital, while three were awaiting rescue.

Labour Miniser Phiphat Ratchakitprakarn said that of the 29,900 Thai workers in Israel, about 5,000 live in Netivot, Sderot and Ashkelon, which are under lockdown rules.

Speaking to the press after arriving in Hong Kong yesterday, Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin said he had been informed by Ms Pannabha that another Thai citizen has perished in the conflict, bringing the total to two.

The prime minister said he will use all diplomatic channels available to secure the release of the Thais.

"They are innocent and have nothing to do with the conflict," he said.

He said he has yet to receive any information about the whereabouts of the kidnapped Thais, before urging Thais living in the affected areas to follow local authorities' instructions.

Mr Srettha said the Royal Thai Air Force is putting an aircraft on standby to evacuate Thais out of Israel, as the situation remains "concerning".

Each flight could carry up to 423 people.

Mr Srettha asked Deputy Foreign Minister Jakkapong Sangmanee to remain in Thailand to oversee the situation in Israel.

During this trip, the PM will visit Hong Kong, Brunei, Malaysia and Singapore.

Israel reaction

In the aftermath of the attack, the Israeli embassy urged the international community "unequivocally condemn this unprovoked attack" and "the mass slaughter of innocent people" by Hamas, which it considers a terrorist organisation.

"The strong condemnation would send a powerful message against such acts of violence and terror," a statement said.

The Israeli ambassador to Thailand, Orna Sagiv also urged the international community to stand in solidarity with Israel.

"Together, we can send a resounding message that terrorism and violence have no place in our world," she said.

"Furthermore, I kindly request the people of Thailand to join us in prayer for the souls of those who have tragically lost their lives, and for a swift end to this violence."

Pleas from relatives

Meanwhile, in Nakhon Phanom, a couple living in Pla Pak district are convinced their son has been taken hostage by Hamas militants following the assault on Israel on Saturday.

Thawatchai and Thongkhoon Onkeaw, both 47, said their son Natthaporn, 26, is among the Thai and Filipino workers who were abducted from their worksite near the border with the Gaza Strip.

They presented a picture, which has been widely shared on social media, which showed six men with their hands tied behind their backs, being held at gunpoint by a militant.

They said Mr Natthaporn left for Israel to work on a kibbutz in Israel in October 2021, after obtaining a work contract via the Department of Employment.

Ms Thongkhoon said the family stayed in contact with him on a daily basis via Facebook. However, after the news on the Hamas attack broke out on Saturday, their efforts to contact him have not yielded any result.

They were also unable to contact any of his fellow Thai workers at the kibbutz. After seeing the picture on social media, they were certain one of the men was their son, she said.

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