12 Thai hostages freed from Gaza, Thai prime minister says
SINGAPORE — Hamas on Friday released 10 Thai nationals and one Filipino who were being held hostage in the Gaza Strip, according to Qatar and Egypt, which have acted as intermediaries between Hamas and countries seeking to free their citizens.
Thailand’s foreign ministry and Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin had earlier said that 12 Thai nationals were released. Israel confirmed on Friday that 11 “foreign nationals” were released.
End of carousel
The Thai foreign ministry said it was verifying the figures as consular officials attended to the freed hostages, who were transferred to the Shamir Medical Center, south of Tel Aviv, after first being taken to a processing point at Hatzerim air base in southern Israel. The Thai and Philippine embassies in Tel Aviv did not respond to requests for comment.
In return, Israel is set to release 150 Palestinian women and teenagers who have been held in its prisons. Majed al-Ansari, a spokesperson for Qatar’s foreign ministry, said 39 Palestinians had been released from Israeli prisons, in line with the agreement that three Palestinian prisoners would be released for each Israeli hostage freed. The International Committee of the Red Cross, however, said it facilitated the release of 33 prisoners from an Israeli prison to Ramallah, West Bank.
The release of the Thai and Filipino hostages occurred separately from the release of the Israeli hostages.
Thailand is the single biggest source of migrant farm labor in Israel. During the attack by Hamas in Israel on Oct. 7, nearly 40 Thai agricultural workers were killed, according to Thai officials. The Thai foreign ministry said that 26 Thai nationals were taken hostage — the largest number by nationality after Israelis.
In recent weeks, top officials, including Foreign Minister Parnpree Bahiddha-Nukara and Thai Muslim leaders have lobbied partners in the Middle East to help obtain the release of the Thai hostages. Lepong Syed, the president of the Thai-Iran Alumni Association, told reporters last week that all Thai hostages would be released once the pause in fighting in Gaza took effect.
Before the attack by Hamas, about 30,000 Thai nationals were working in Israel, according to the Thai Labor Ministry. Thavisin has urged the expatriates to return home, but thousands are still thought to remain in Israel.
Philippine nationals, many of whom work as caregivers in Israel, also have been caught up in the conflict. At least two were killed by Hamas, according to Philippine officials, and several are missing.
This week, the Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs said 17 Filipino seafarers were among 25 crew members taken hostage by Yemen-based Houthi rebels in an attack on an Israel-linked ship in the Red Sea. The Philippines is negotiating their release, officials said.
Pietsch reported from Washington. Wilawan Watcharasakwej in Bangkok contributed to this report.