(Updated 11:49 a.m.) MANILA, Philippines - Sixteen Filipinos who were evacuated from the Gaza Strip are now on a plane going to Thailand for a brief stop over, while a Filipino nun stayed in Israel.
Foreign Affairs Undersecretary Esteban Conejos Jr., said the Filipino nun, Valeria Rosillo of the Missionaries of Charity, is in the care of the Latin patriarch in the Israeli capital of Jerusalem while the returning 16 Filipinos are set to arrive in Bangkok at around 1:05 p.m. (Bangkok time).
“The embassy in Bangkok is making arrangements to get them on board the earliest available flight to Manila," Conejos said.
Philippine officials are now waiting for the go-signal from Israel authorities and the Red Cross for a "window of opportunity" to take a second batch of Filipinos home.
Three Filipino mothers Laila Chavez-Salama, Anabele Mangulaban-Abu Hassira and Nenita Gozum-Hammoudeh and their children were forced to leave their Palestinian spouses behind.
In an earlier interview, Laila said she was hesitant to leave her husband who was not permitted by the Israeli government to cross the border since he carries a Palestine identity card.
Only Filipina wives and their children both held Philippine passports and Palestinian IDs.
Following a lull in the intense 12-day fighting in Gaza, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) immediately pursued the evacuation plan for foreign nationals who had been trapped in the area since conflicts ensued last December 27.
On Wednesday evening, Philippine Embassy officials in Israel advised all 108 Filipinos, mostly women and children, to join the Thursday evacuation plan.
They were escorted by the International Committee of the Red Cross to the Israeli-Gaza border to avoid being targeted by the warring sides.
In an earlier interview, Ambassador Garcia said the evacuees arrived on board Red Cross buses at a checkpoint where they were made to walk for some 500 meters to the Eretz Border.
Embassy officials then accompanied the three Filipino-Palestinian families to the Israel-Jordan border in Allenby Bridge. Once cleared by the Jordanian authorities, they were herded to the Jordan International Airport and take the flight to Manila, said the report.
Meanwhile, Sister Rosillo and other foreign nun evacuees were taken by Latin patriarchs to Jerusalem.
In a phone interview with GMA News, Mrs. Abu Hassira said other Filipinos could have joined them during the evacuation but were afraid to go to the rendezvous point as the bombings and fighting inside Gaza escalated on Thursday.
Ambassador Garcia advised the remaining 91 Filipinos in Gaza, mostly wives of Palestinians and their children, to stay put inside their homes.
Philippine Embassy officials called the homes of 20 Filipinos in Gaza Wednesday evening to inform them of the evacuation plan on Thursday, Dr. Edriss Salama, a Palestinian, told GMANews.TV.
Salama is the husband of, Laila, one of whose who left for the border on Thursday morning. - with reports from Mark Joseph Ubalde, GMANews.TV