Pinoys told: Leave Gaza Strip

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Sunday, July 13, 2014

MANILA (Updated) -- The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) urged Filipinos in Gaza Strip to go back to the Philippines as it implemented its voluntary repatriation program Sunday due to the ongoing conflict between Israeli forces and the Islamist Hamas movement in the Palestinian territory.

“The Philippine Embassies in Cairo, Tel Aviv, and Amman are ready to assist those who wish to leave Gaza,” the DFA said after raising the crisis alert level from 2 to 3 in less than 24 hours.

An estimated 109 Filipinos are residing in the Gaza Strip.

The Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) is expected to impose on Monday a total deployment ban for overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) bound for Gaza Strip.

“Alert level 3 carries total ban for new and rehires. The resolution of POEA Governing Board is being drafted already,” said Labor Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz.

The United Nations (UN) Security Council has called for a ceasefire between contending parties and immediately end hostilities after the death toll from the four-day Israeli airstrikes climbed to 118.

But neither Israel nor Palestinian militants show signs of agreeing to a ceasefire to end their weeklong conflict. With Israel massing tanks and soldiers at Gaza's borders, some fear the latest Israeli threats could signal a wider ground offensive that would bring even heavier casualties than the 166 Palestinian deaths already registered.

Palestinians in Gaza Strip leave homes
GAZA STRIP. Palestinians flee their homes to take shelter at the United Nations school in Gaza City, Sunday, July 13, 2014. (AP photo)

Early Sunday, Israeli naval commandos launched a brief raid into northern Gaza to destroy what the military described as a rocket-launching site, an operation it said left four of its soldiers slightly wounded.

The Israeli air force later dropped leaflets warning residents to evacuate their homes ahead of what Israel's military spokesman described as a "short and temporary" campaign against northern Gaza to begin sometime after 12 p.m. (0900 GMT). The area is home to at least 100,000 people.

It was not clear whether the possible attack would be confined to stepped-up airstrikes or whether it might include a sizeable ground offensive — something that Israel has so far been reluctant to undertake.

The offensive marks the heaviest fighting since a similar eight-day campaign in November 2012 to stop Gaza rocket fire. The outbreak of violence follows the kidnappings and killings of three Israeli teenagers in the West Bank, the kidnapping and killing of a Palestinian teenager in an apparent revenge attack, and wide-ranging Israeli moves against Hamas militants and infrastructure in the West Bank.

As of Sunday, Crisis Alert Level 1 is also up in West Bank and in southern and central Israel.

With the attacks, “Filipinos in these areas are advised to take the necessary precautions,” said the DFA.

Records show that there are 113 Filipinos in the West Bank while a total of 36,400 Filipinos are in Israel.

On Saturday, the DFA also raised alert level 2 in Kenya due to the deteriorating security situation in the African country.

Under alert level 2, Filipinos are advised to restrict movement and avoid unnecessary travel and crowded places.

The restriction phase only allows returning overseas Filipino workers with existing employment contracts. No new deployment of workers is allowed with the exception of workers in the United Nations agencies in Kenya. (HDT/With AP/Sunnex)

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