Hamas Still Holding 15 Thai Nationals in Gaza, Bangkok Says

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Hamas Still Holding 15 Thai Nationals in Gaza, Bangkok Says

The announcement came after 17 people were released over several days during the truce between Israel and Hamas.

Hamas Still Holding 15 Thai Nationals in Gaza, Bangkok Says

Gen. Yossi Shelley, the director of Israel’s Prime Minister’s Office, visits 14 Thai nationals and one Philippine national released from the Gaza Strip at the Shamir Medical Center in Be’er Yaakov, Israel, November 26, 2023.

Credit: Facebook/The Prime Minister of Israel

The Palestinian militant group Hamas is still holding 15 Thai nationals hostage, Thailand’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs says, after 17 were freed over several days during a truce between Hamas and Israel.

In a statement today, the Ministry said that it “warmly congratulates the recently released hostages and their families and thanks all parties involved in the efforts towards this latest release.”

“For the remaining 15 Thai hostages, the Royal Thai Government continues to exert all efforts towards their safe release at the earliest opportunity,” it added, “while preparing to bring back the now 17 Thais who have already been released, back to Thailand after their preliminary checks as soon as possible.”

The Ministry said that the Thai nationals were released in three groups beginning on Friday with the release of 10 people. It later issued two updates as news of further releases, of four and three Thai hostages, became clear. These releases were accompanied by photographs of those released meeting doctors at a medical center in Israel.

The released Thais were among the 240 people taken hostage on October 7, when Hamas launched brutal incursions into southern Israel, killing more than 1,200 people, according to the Israeli government’s figures, and sparking the current war. Thai nationals were the largest foreign contingent to fall victim to the attacks, with the Foreign Ministry initially claiming that 39 were killed in the raids and another 25 captured.

Interestingly, the deal for the release of the Thai nationals was reportedly brokered separately from Friday’s exchange of hostages for Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails.

A source briefed on the negotiations told Reuters that the release was unrelated to the truce deal with Israel and followed what the news agency described as a “separate track of talks with Hamas mediated by Egypt and Qatar.” In order to secure the release of the hostages, the Thai government has remained quietly neutral on the conflict, while asking the governments of Qatar, Iran, and Egypt to formally convey to Hamas a request for their release. It has also assembled a team of Thai-Muslim politicians, headed by House Speaker Wan Muhamad Noor Matha, to have meetings with Hamas officials, including in the Iranian capital Tehran.

Thailand’s foreign minister and army chief will travel to Israel to bring the freed hostages back, Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin told reporters, adding that his government was doing its utmost to secure the release of the remaining captives.

Those captured by Hamas were part of a population of around 30,000 Thai citizens working in Israel at the time of the attacks, mostly in the agriculture sector. More than 7,200 of these have returned to Thailand since the crisis erupted.

Among them was 33-year-old Vetoon Phoome, who had been living in Israel for five years. “He told me not to cry, to tell mother I’m coming back,” Vetoon’s sister, Roongarun Wichagern, told Reuters speaking with him via video call after his release. “He said, ‘I’m not dead, I’m not dead’.”

Those released also included Natthawaree Mulkan, a factory worker and mother of two, and the only Thai woman known to be held by Hamas.