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Pinoy Abroad

2 Filipino doctors in Gaza cross border to Egypt

Two Filipino doctors have successfully crossed Rafah Crossing into safety amid the war between Israeli forces and the militant group Hamas, Raffy Tima reported on Unang Balita on Thursday.

Citing Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) Undersecretary Eduardo de Vega, the report said the two Filipino doctors, who are volunteers for the international humanitarian aid group Doctors Without Borders, are now safe in Egypt.

The two were among the initial list of foreign nationals who were allowed to exit Gaza Strip through Rafah Crossing.

A photo provided by the DFA show the two smiling and appearing to be in good condition.

The two doctors spent hours at the border to process their exit, the Unang Balita report said, citing sources.

They were brought to el-Arish in Egypt, located some 30 kilometers from Gaza, together with other foreign nationals. From there, they will be transferred to Cairo.

As the two are volunteers from Doctors Without Borders, the organization will manage their transportation out of Egypt.

The two were among the 136 Filipinos in Gaza.

115 more waiting to cross

Information reaching the DFA from the Philippine ambassador in Amman, Jordan said there are 115 Filipinos in Gaza who want to leave and are just waiting for the signal to cross the border.

"Only 19 Filipinos remain undecided, including the 1 Filipino nun," the DFA said.

Th count does not include the two Filipino doctors from Doctors Without Borders who have crossed the Rafah border into Egypt.

A Reuters report, citing sources including a Palestinian official, said at least 320 foreign passport holders and some injured Gazans left the Palestinian enclave through the Rafah crossing into Egypt on Wednesday, the first to benefit from a deal mediated by Qatar.

Under the deal brokered between Egypt, Israel and Hamas, 81 wounded people and an initial list of 500 foreign passport holders were expected to be allowed out of the Gaza Strip in the coming days, the report said. 

Prioritize Pinoys

De Vega on Wednesday said the Philippines is asking Israel to make Filipinos among the first to flee Gaza after it opened its border in Rafah.

"We are engaging with Israel to prioritize Filipinos among nationalities to be first allowed exit. Right now, they are prioritizing members of international organizations," De Vega said.

De Vega said all 136 Filipinos in Gaza have been accounted for "after we initially lost contact with them last Friday."

"Telecommunications are back. So far no injured," De Vega had said.

"And the six who originally returned to Gaza City have left and are now actually at Rafah Crossing just waiting to cross when signal is given," he added.

Israel vs. Hamas

Israeli strikes on Gaza since October 7 have killed at least 8,796 Palestinians, including 3,648 children, according to the health ministry in the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip.

Israel launched the strikes after Hamas gunmen attacked southern Israel on October 7, killing about 300 soldiers and 1,100 civilians, and taking more than 200 hostages, according to Israeli figures.

Israel sees Hamas, which has vowed to destroy the Jewish state, as an existential threat.

The Israeli military said Tuesday's strikes on Jabalia, Gaza's largest refugee camp, had killed Ibrahim Biari, a Hamas commander it said was pivotal in organizing the Oct. 7 assault, as well as dozens of Hamas militants.

On Wednesday, the Israeli military said it had deployed missile boats in the Red Sea, following long-range drone and missile attacks claimed by the Houthis in Yemen. —with Joviland Rita/KBK, GMA Integrated News