Indonesia to evacuate citizens from Palestinian Territories as soon as it is safe: Minister


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JAKARTA: Indonesia will evacuate its citizens from the Palestinian Territories once the situation is safe for it to do so, said Foreign Affairs Minister Retno Marsudi on Wednesday, and contingency plans are being worked on to ensure they return safely.

Efforts by the archipelago to bring home its people are running concurrently with those of other countries in the region, as nations including Singapore advise their citizens to leave Israel as soon as possible via available commercial options.

Retno told reporters on the sidelines of the Archipelagic and Island States Forum in Jakarta that Indonesia already has data on the number of its citizens in the conflict area.

“There is an evacuation plan, but the situation does not yet allow for movement,” she said, adding that support has been requested from the International Committee of the Red Cross in evacuating Indonesians.

There are 45 Indonesians currently in the Palestinian Territories, and 10 of them are in the Gaza Strip, which has become the main target of the Israeli military’s air strikes.

There are also 230 Indonesians currently carrying out religious tourism activities in several locations in Israel.

Indonesia has also made contact with Brazil, which currently holds the presidency of the United Nations Security Council as well as the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, said Retno.

She added that officials are also in touch with their counterparts from the Philippines, which has an embassy in Israel. Indonesia, the world’s largest Muslim-majority country, has no official diplomatic relationship with Israel.

In order to ensure its people return home safely, Indonesia’s Foreign Affairs Ministry is also preparing to evacuate citizens through countries closest to the Palestinian Territories, namely Jordan, Lebanon and Egypt.

“Currently, the Indonesian government, through the Indonesian embassies in Amman, Beirut and Cairo, is coordinating with various parties to evacuate Indonesian citizens who are in the Palestinian territory,” said the ministry’s spokesman, Lalu Muhamad Iqbal, as quoted by local media on Tuesday.

Other Asean countries

As of Thursday, 5,990 Thai citizens have registered for voluntary repatriation, according to the Royal Thai Embassy in Tel Aviv.

Twenty-one Thais have been killed in the conflict, while 14 have been injured and 16 have been abducted. According to Agence France-Presse, Hamas has seized around 150 people as hostages.

There are 30,000 Thai workers in Israel, with about 5,000 of them in the conflict area.

Deputy Foreign Affairs Minister Jakkapong Sangmanee said on Tuesday that the return of these bodies cannot be undertaken until Israeli forces have fully secured areas affected by the conflict.

Arrangements for some Thai citizens to return home have been made, and the first batch of 15 arrived on Thursday. This group includes those who are injured but fit for travel.

Some 80 Thai nationals are scheduled to make the journey home next Wednesday, according to Ms Pannabha Chandraramya, the Thai Ambassador to Israel.

Malaysia’s Foreign Ministry on Thursday said that it is currently making arrangements to repatriate five of its citizens in the Palestinian Territories.

Foreign Minister Zambry Abdul Kadir said on Thursday that this process is carried out with the cooperation of the Philippines embassy.

The five are a woman and a mother with three children who are holding Malaysian passports.

A Malaysian doctor married to a Palestinian has also been identified and confirmed to be safe, Datuk Seri Zambry said, adding that ministry officials are working with their Philippine counterparts to evacuate the couple.

The Philippine government is making preparations to assist 38 of its people in the Gaza Strip who have signalled their intentions to be repatriated.

There were over 30,000 Filipinos in Israel as at December 2021 and, in a statement on Monday, the Philippine Presidential Communications Office said that Filipinos living in Israel have not requested immediate repatriation.

Two Filipinos have been killed in Israel, and President Ferdinand Marcos Jr on Wednesday said that the country “stands firmly against the ongoing terror and violence”.

Three Filipinos remain missing, while 26 others have been rescued by Israeli security forces.

On Tuesday, Singapore’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a travel advisory that Singaporeans in Israel should leave the country as soon as possible via available commercial options.

Those who choose to remain are urged to stay vigilant and monitor local developments closely, as well as avoid areas where large crowds gather, such as the Old City and East Jerusalem, which includes the Temple Mount that houses Al-Aqsa Mosque. - The Straits Times/ANN

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