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Source: AP News

Nov 25, 2023

Hamas releases 10 Thai hostages, 4 of whom had not been listed as abducted

BANGKOK (AP) — Hamas freed 10 Thai nationals and a Filipino alongside Israeli hostages who were part of the first swap under a new cease-fire deal — including four Thais who had not been officially listed as abducted, Thailand’s Foreign Ministry announced Saturday morning.

Thais were the single biggest group of foreigners taken hostage when Hamas took some 240 people during its Oct. 7 surprise attack on southern Israel. Thais working in Israel are mostly employed as semi-skilled farm laborers, at wages considerably higher than those at they can earn at home.

The ministry said the group of 10 Thais in all — nine men and one woman — were undergoing health checks at a medical center in Israel. They would stay there for at least 48 hours before flying home to Thailand. It released photos of the freed hostages in the Israeli hospital where they were taken Friday after their release.

There was confusion overnight about the number of Thais freed, with Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin writing on X, formerly known as Twitter, that 12 had been freed.

Thailand’s Foreign Ministry said that figure came from the Thai Embassy in Tel Aviv. However, it revised the number downward after the spokesperson for the Qatari foreign ministry, Majed al-Ansari, posted on X that the number was 10. Qatar played a key role in making arrangements for the hostage releases.

The release of four Thais previously not known to be held by Hamas militants leaves 20 currently listed as being held captive.

On Friday night, Thai Foreign Minister Parnpree Bahiddha-Nukara wrote online that he was overjoyed at news of the release. He had traveled more than three weeks ago to Egypt and Qatar to seek their help in obtaining the hostages’ freedom.

Thailand thanked Qatar, Israel, Egypt, Iran, Malaysia and the International Committee of the Red Cross.

“It is our deep hope that all remaining hostages will be taken care of, and will be safely released at the earliest opportunity,” the Thai Foreign Ministry said.

The Thai foreign ministry said the released workers crossed into Israel, where they were taken to Hatzerim Airbase for processing, after which they went to the Shamir Medical Center, where embassy officials met with them.

A spokesperson for the hospital said staff were informed around 4 p.m. local time Friday that they would be receiving the Thai hostages — approximately the same time Thailand’s prime minister and Egyptian officials made the news public.

The missing workers were among about 30,000 Thais employed mostly in Israel’s agricultural sector. According to Thailand’s foreign ministry, 39 were killed in the Oct. 7 attacks. More than 8,600 workers have been voluntarily repatriated since the attacks, the Labor Ministry said.

One other Asian with the group of released Thais was a Gelienor “Jimmy” Pacheco, a 33-year-old Philippine national. He had been caring for an elderly man who lived in Nir Oz, one of more than 20 towns and villages in southern Israel that was ambushed in the sweeping assault by Hamas launched from the embattled Gaza Strip.

The village said Friday that it welcomed Pacheco’s return, calling him “the devoted carer of the late Amitai Ben-Zvi, who was murdered during the terrorist attack.”

The Israeli Embassy in Manila said Pacheco was also undergoing medical evaluation at Shamir Medical Center, and that the Israeli government is committed and will do whatever is needed to bring the rest of the more then 200 hostages home.

On Saturday, Pacheco’s wife, Clarice Joy Ponce Pacheco, posted on Facebook a picture of her freed husband meeting with the family of his employer.

“Thank you so much Lord,” she wrote. “Such a blessing and big miracle for having a second life Gelienor Leaño Pacheco.”

Some 30,000 Filipinos live and work in Israel, many as caregivers, according to the Philippines Department of Foreign Affairs. At least two Filipinos were killed in the Hamas attack on Oct. 7, including a caregiver who was shot with her employer inside their house, the Philippine Embassy in Israel said.

“I salute the work of the Philippine Foreign Service in securing his release, and once again thank the State of Qatar for their invaluable assistance in making Jimmy’s release possible,” Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. wrote Saturday on X, adding that the government remains concerned about the whereabouts of Philippine national Noralyn Babadilla, who is reportedly one of the foreigners held hostage by Hamas.


This story has been corrected to show that the 11th freed hostage, Gelienor “Jimmy” Pacheco, is Filipino, not Thai.

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