Hamas frees 10 Thai citizens, one Filipino under separate deal: Qatar

A vehicle believed to be carrying captives abducted by Hamas arrives at the Rafah border with Egypt, as seen from southern Gaza Strip, November 24, 2023 [Reuters TV via Reuters]

Their release was outside of truce between Israel and Hamas, in which 13 Israelis were freed for 39 Palestinians.

Hamas has released a group of 10 Thai nationals and one citizen from the Philippines who were being held in Gaza, as part of a separate agreement to the one between Israel and the Palestinian group that saw Israeli hostages and Palestinian prisoners being freed.

Majed al-Ansari, a spokesperson of the foreign ministry in Qatar – which has played a key mediating role – said on Friday that the Thai nationals and Filipino were among a total of 24 captives who were released.

The Thai nationals, he said, were “currently on their way out of the strip” with the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).

They were not covered by the truce deal between Hamas and Israel, and Qatar and Egypt mediated a separate deal with Hamas, Thai officials said.

That negotiation track was opened when Thailand’s foreign minister visited Qatar on October 31, which led to a specific agreement with Hamas to release the Thais, the officials added. Thai nationals were the single biggest group of foreigners taken captive.

But Thailand’s Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin posted earlier on X that he had received confirmation of the release of 12 nationals and that Thai embassy officials were to pick them up.

The group was brought to Rafah and then to the Karem Abu Salem crossing, called Kerem Shalom by Israel, east of the Rafah crossing between Egypt and the Gaza Strip, Thailand’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said. They were transported to a processing point at the Hatzerim Air Force base and were to be taken to the Shamir Medical Centre, southeast of Tel Aviv.

“At this time, the gender and names of these Thais are not known,” the ministry statement said.

Apart from Qatar and Egypt, the ministry also thanked Israel, Iran, Malaysia and the ICRC.

Iran and Thailand maintain friendly relations and prominent members of Thailand’s Muslim minority made unofficial trips to Tehran to seek the captives’ freedom, The Associated Press news agency reported.

Thai Foreign Minister Parnpree Bahiddha-Nukara had said that his Iranian counterpart, who was serving as Thailand’s intermediary with Hamas, had told him there would be “good news soon”, the report said.

At least 23 Thai workers are believed to be among the estimated 240 people who were taken captive by Hamas during the October 7 attack.

An additional 32 Thai workers were killed in the attack in southern Israel.

According to the Thai ministry, some 30,000 Thais were employed mainly in Israel’s agricultural sector at the time of the attack. More than 8,600 Thai workers have been voluntarily repatriated since then.

Under an agreement with Israel, Thai workers are paid a minimum wage of 5,300 shekels a month ($2,000), six or seven times more than they earn at home.

Qatar has led weeks of intense negotiations, coordinating with the United States and Egypt, to reach an agreement for the freeing of 50 civilian hostages from Gaza in return for the release of Palestinian prisoners, a brief truce and access to humanitarian aid.

Thirteen Israelis, including dual nationals, were released by Hamas on Friday.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has pledged that the captive release deal would not spell the end of the war, saying Israel would continue its push to “eliminate” Hamas.

Benny Gantz, a part of Israel’s war cabinet, reiterated at a solidarity rally for the families of captives in Tel Aviv that the army will resume fighting after the humanitarian pause.

“I want to assure the families of all the hostages: We will not stop. We will resume the efforts and the military action in Gaza to retrieve the hostages and restore deterrence,” Gantz said.

In his first statement since the Israeli captives were released, Netanyahu said that their return was “one of the aims of the war and we are committed to achieving all the aims of the war”.



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