MANILA – As violence intensifies between Israeli forces and Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip, the Philippines government has mandated the evacuation of its citizens stranded in the besieged coastal enclave.
In a statement on Sunday, the Department of Foreign Affairs elevated its alert level for Gaza to the highest rating of 4, signaling a mandatory repatriation order due to the “current situation.” The department said 78 of the estimated 131 Filipinos in Gaza are situated near the Rafah border crossing into Egypt.
In a message sent over Viber, DFA Undersecretary Eduardo de Vega made clear the government is “calling on our nationals to leave” Gaza immediately. “If they stay, they do so at their own very grave risk,” he warned.
The move comes as Israel’s military orders all Palestinians to evacuate parts of northern Gaza and Gaza City within 24 hours, in what signals a potential major ground operation. Reports indicate Israeli forces are preparing for an offensive even as Palestinian militants fire over 130 rockets into southern Israel in recent days.
The Philippine government said it continues working to bring home its citizens and will provide updates. The mandatory evacuation order reflects deep concerns over the escalating violence between Israeli forces and Hamas, which administers Gaza and has fired hundreds of rockets into Israel since last week.
With diplomatic efforts failing so far to achieve a ceasefire, the situation remains volatile and dangers are mounting each day for any remaining civilians. The plight of stranded Filipinos has now become part of the growing humanitarian crisis unfolding in Gaza.