Israel Vows to Help in Returning Thais, Free 16 Hamas Hostages

Israel has committed to assisting in the negotiations for the release of 16 Thai citizens taken hostage by Hamas and fully backs Thailand’s efforts to bring its nationals home, as relayed by Israeli Ambassador to Thailand, Orna Sagiv.

She also mentioned that Israel will speed up the identification of corpse believed to be Thai and ensure their swift return, as conveyed to Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin.

However, Walid Abu Ali, the Palestinian ambassador to Thailand, during a press briefing on Friday, expressed skepticism about any nation’s ability to rescue hostages from Hamas given the volatile situation and rising tensions.

He emphasized the need for international intervention to cease hostilities in the Israel-Hamas conflict before any hostage recovery attempts.

“The [Israeli] ambassador insisted the war situation has not improved at all — in other words, it is escalating,” Mr Srettha said after meeting Ms Sagiv on Friday morning at Government House.

He emphasized Thailand’s significant casualty count in the conflict, despite not being a direct participant, trailing only behind the U.S. in terms of loss.

Since the previous weekend, 21 Thais have lost their lives in the attacks, 14 have been injured, and 16 are held hostage, as reported by the Thai Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Mr. Srettha conveyed that Ms. Sagiv reiterated Israel’s dedication to ensuring the safety and eventual repatriation of Thais and all civilians.

He added that potential initial evacuation points for Thai citizens might include Egypt, the UAE, and Saudi Arabia, followed by repatriation when flight operations resume.

He expressed relief upon learning about the immediate commencement of repatriation flights from Israel, noting that nearly 99% of residents have been moved from the war’s epicenter, within a 4-km proximity to Gaza.

The count of Thais communicating their wish to depart from Israel to the Thai embassy in Tel Aviv reached 6,778 by Friday. The Foreign Affairs Ministry has a daily repatriation goal of 400 individuals.

In coordination with the air force, Thai AirAsia and Nok Air have pledged support for two repatriation flights each.

Thai Airways International might need to operate from a neighboring nation, as they don’t typically service the Israeli capital, noted Mr. Srettha.

To facilitate this mission, the Ministry is negotiating air passage through four countries’ airspace.

He stressed the need for more airline participation, as the current combined capacity can only bring back 200 individuals daily to Thailand. At this rate, it would take a month to return all Thais.

The Prime Minister also communicated to the Israeli ambassador the urgency of advancing hostage talks with Hamas, adding that Thailand is leveraging multiple channels for this cause.

He stated that while he couldn’t disclose specifics due to security concerns, the government is making every effort to return the 16 detained Thais.

Regarding the 21 Thais who lost their lives in Israel, Mr. Srettha mentioned that Ms. Sagiv confirmed the Israeli government’s understanding of Thailand’s intent to bring them back. Yet, given approximately 1,000 bodies awaiting identification, delays are anticipated.

For the deceased, identification is mandated within Israel due to a compensation provision for the affected families, explained Mr. Srettha.

Furthermore, the Israeli ambassador committed to looking into complaints of Thai workers in Israel being compelled to work amidst the conflict, as conveyed by Mr. Srettha.