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54 Thai nationals among the hostages held by Hamas in Gaza

Nearly a quarter of the 220 hostages held by militant group Hamas in Gaza are Thai nationals, the Israeli government said on Wednesday (Oct 25).

Thailand’s foreign affairs ministry said on Thursday that it is in the process of verifying that 54 Thais are being held captive by Hamas, the Guardian reported. 

Foreign Affairs Minister Parnpree Bahiddha-Nukara told the Bangkok Post that a team of negotiators has been dispatched to help secure the release of the hostages.

Thailand is one of the largest sources of migrant workers in Israel, with around 30,000 working in the agriculture sector, according to government data.

Providing updated figures on Wednesday, the Israeli government said 138 of the hostages had foreign passports, including 15 Argentinians, 12 Germans, 12 Americans, six French and six Russians.

Many were believed to have had dual Israeli nationality, however some – like the Thais and five Nepalese hostages – almost certainly did not. There was also one Chinese hostage, one Sri Lankan, two from Tanzania and two from the Philippines.

Thai nationals make up the largest single group of foreigners dead and missing, with 24 confirmed killed and 21 unaccounted for.

Thailand’s foreign affairs ministry said last week it has organised daily repatriation flights for its citizens and at least 8,160 Thai nationals have asked to return home so far.

Related:

Thailand works to release nationals taken hostage during Israel-Hamas conflict

'Bombed left and right': Some Southeast Asian nationals seek to escape Israel-Hamas war but journey home challenging

“BARRAGE OF GUNFIRE”

Hamas launched a surprise attack on Israel on Oct 7, killing more than 1,400 people and taking over 200 hostages. Israel responded by pounding Gaza with air strikes, killing thousands.

Some Thai workers were working on Israeli farms near the Gaza border when the Oct 7 attack happened. Thai labourer Kamlue was on his way to harvest courgettes on a farm when the truck he was riding on came under heavy fire.

“They launched a relentless barrage of gunfire from every direction,” he said, asking not to use his full name as he recounted his escape from the Hamas attack.

The driver of the truck managed to steer it to a safe position, but Kamlue was among several workers who were wounded.

“I was shot in my right leg, and I’m still recovering from the injury,” said the 41-year-old, who returned to Thailand on a repatriation flight organised by the Thai government.

The killing of migrant workers has caused alarm among the roughly 110,000 foreign labourers who currently live legally in the country, prompting thousands to line up to leave.

But Thailand’s Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin on Thursday said he was concerned that Thai workers were planning to stay in Israel for higher pay, despite escalating conflict.

“We have to improve the state of our economy here … so Thais don’t have to risk their lives,” Srettha said on Thursday in a response to a question in parliament, adding 4,000 Thais had been repatriated so far but others were changing their minds to stay.

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