Palestinians wait at the Rafah border crossing between the Gaza Strip and Egypt Gaza Strip, Oct. 14, 2023. — REUTERS

FORTY MORE Filipinos have been evacuated from the Gaza Strip to Egypt through the Rafah Border Crossing and would come home soon, President Ferdinand R. Marcos, Jr. said on Wednesday.

“They are on their way to Cairo where they would be coming from on their way home in the coming days,” the President said in a video message in Filipino.

He said the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) had coordinated with the embassies in Israel, Jordan and Egypt for the Filipinos’ safe passage.

“We also thank the governments of Israel and Egypt for prioritizing our fellow Filipinos so they can get out of their territories,” Mr. Marcos said. “We also recognize the mediation efforts of Qatar that led to the reopening of these nations’ borders.”

DFA on Tuesday said the Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs had verbally agreed to let the Filipinos cross with their Palestinian spouses.

The agency on Sunday said attacks along the route to the Rafah Border Crossing had delayed the evacuation of Filipinos to Egypt.

The Philippines earlier placed Gaza under Alert Level 4 for forced repatriation, while Israel is under Alert Level 2.

The fifth batch of 22 overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) from Israel arrived in the Philippines on Monday, while the sixth batch of 42 Filipinos arrived on Tuesday afternoon, the Department of Migrant Workers (DMW) said.

A total of 184 OFWs have come home as of Tuesday, it added.

Foreign Affairs Undersecretary Jose Eduardo A. de Vega earlier said all 136 Filipinos in Gaza have been allowed to leave the strip after the Rafah border crossing opened last week.

The DMW on Monday said it expects more OFWs to return in the coming weeks amid the worsening war between Israel and the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas.

Israel launched extensive airstrikes in Gaza after Hamas militants backed by a barrage of rockets stormed from the blockaded Gaza Strip into nearby Israeli towns, killing 1,400 people, mostly civilians, in a surprise attack on Oct. 7

The country also enforced a blockade and deployed tens of thousands of Israeli troops for a ground assault on the Palestinian enclave.

More than 10,000 Palestinians have died since the war started last month, according to Gaza’s Health Ministry. At least four Filipinos have died in the war.

President Marcos, Jr. on Nov. 3 said Israel Foreign Minister Eli Cohen had committed to ensure the immediate evacuation of Filipinos trapped in the conflict.

“With a military siege in place, people in Gaza are deprived of food, water and medicine,” the International Committee of the Red Cross said in a statement. “Sparse aid is arriving, leaving communities without the essentials to survive.”

“Massive bombardments are gutting civilian infrastructure across Gaza, sowing seeds of hardship for generations to come,” it said, adding that critical services such as healthcare, water and electricity “must be immediately restored in Gaza as a lifesaving priority.”

The Red Cross cited “damaged hospitals and ambulances,” which it said are “unacceptable.” “Tragically, medics from both the Palestine Red Crescent and Magen David Adom, alongside United Nations and other humanitarian workers, have been killed in the last month while working to help others,” it added.

The Red Cross urged parties to uphold their obligations under international humanitarian law and spare civilians.

It expressed willingness to be a “neutral actor” to facilitate the release of hostages under Hamas custody. “Until then, we continue all our efforts to urge Hamas and all those with influence to allow ICRC personnel to visit the hostages.”

Lanao del Sur Rep. Zia Alonto Adiong on Tuesday pushed a two-state solution for the Israel-Palestine conflict.

“That is the most viable solution in order to address the 75-year conflict between Palestine and Israel,” he told the House of Representatives plenary.

He said former Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) negotiator Mahmoud Abbas in 1993 signed the Oslo Accords, the first peace agreement between Israel and Palestine that sought to fulfill the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination.

But the Israeli government had failed to recognize the accord and maintains total control over Palestine, Mr. Adiong said.

“We must resolutely advocate for a return to the negotiating table, a renewed commitment to upholding agreements that pave the way for a just and enduring peace,” he said in a privilege speech. “This means breaking the chains of the blockade, dismantling the structures of apartheid and heralding the birth of a fully recognized Palestinian state.”

Cagayan De Oro Rep. Rufus B. Rodriguez said the conflict between Israel and Palestine could widen if countries including the Philippines do not push a ceasefire.

The two-state solution would pave the way for “peaceful coexistence” between Israel and Palestine, he told the plenary. — Kyle Aristophere T. Atienza