Philippines supports Israel but ‘condemns’ slay of civilians, including Gazans

By: Jacob Lazaro - Philippine Daily Inquirer | October 20,2023 - 08:57 AM

The Philippines supports Israel in its war against the Hamas militant group but “condemns the killing of civilians,” including the Palestinians caught in the crossfire, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said on Thursday, October 19, 2023.

“The President has indicated that the Philippines sides with Israel and we recognize the right of self-defense, but no country is telling any other country to kill civilians, to violate humanitarian law. That’s not what we meant,” Foreign Undersecretary Eduardo de Vega told an online press briefing.

“So any killing of civilians is condemned,” he said.

De Vega made the statement in response to questions about the extent of Israel’s bombardment of Gaza that had killed scores of Palestinian civilians in response to Hamas’ surprise attack on Oct. 7, which triggered a declaration of war by Tel Aviv.

The DFA official, however, took care not to call out either side.

“We’re not here to play the blame game, what we want is for civilian lives to be protected and for our kababayan (people) to arrive safely home,” De Vega said.

There are 135 Filipinos in the besieged Gaza Strip, a narrow piece of land under the control of the Islamist Hamas militant group.

Hospital bombing

On Tuesday night, Al Ahli Arab Hospital in northern Gaza was bombed, killing at least 500 patients, medical workers and other noncombatants.

READ MORE: Gaza hospital strike: US intelligence estimates 100-300 killed

The DFA on late Thursday said it was “deeply saddened” that the incident had led to the death of innocents.

“We grieve for the hundreds of innocent lives lost in this tragic incident, noncombatants, which include medical practitioners, children, the wounded and displaced individuals who only sought shelter at the facility,” DFA spokesperson Teresita Daza said.

“All parties should do their utmost to protect civilians in times of war and armed conflict. We support efforts of the United Nations to provide humanitarian relief in the conflict areas,” she added.

READ MORE: Gaza hospital attack: WHO condemns deadly strike

Israel has denied bombing the hospital, accusing the Palestine Islamic Jihad, another group calling for a Palestinian state, of being responsible for the “failed rocket launch” that hit the building.

In an interview with the Inquirer on Wednesday, Egyptian Ambassador to Manila Ahmed Shehabeldin said the DFA’s statement of sympathy was “the least they (the Philippines) can do,” considering the death toll in Gaza was almost triple that of Israel’s.

“This is the least they can do. Because you cannot let it go like that. It’s something that if you let go like that and you give the Israelis the privilege of just running away, [it’s] just impunity,” Shehabeldin said.

Occupying power

“I mean come on, according to international law, these are criminal acts. We should not forget that Israel is an occupying power, they occupy Palestine by all means. So you can’t say that this is ‘self-defense’ and use it out of context. This is irrelevant,” the ambassador said.

To date, around 1,400 have died in Israel, according to Israeli authorities, while the Palestinian health ministry counts nearly 3,500 dead in Gaza.

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TAGS: conflict, Gaza, Israel, Palestine, Philippines, war

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