Israel will help negotiate the release of 16 Thai people held hostage by Hamas and fully support the Thai government's efforts to repatriate its citizens from Israel, according to Israeli Ambassador to Thailand Orna Sagiv.
The country will also accelerate the process of identifying any corpses believed to be Thai nationals and return them home as soon as possible, Ms Sagiv told Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin.
However, any attempt by a country to help their people who have been abducted and held hostage by Hamas is highly unlikely at this point due to the precarious nature of the situation and the escalating conflict, Walid Abu Ali, the Palestinian ambassador to Thailand, told a press briefing on Friday.
He urged the international community to pressure both sides in the Israel-Hamas war to stop fighting before any attempts to retrieve hostages can take place.
“The [Israeli] ambassador insisted the war situation has not improved at all — in other words, it is escalating,” Mr Srettha said after meeting Ms Sagiv on Friday morning at Government House.
Mr Srettha said he had stressed that even though Thailand has no part in the conflict, the country is bearing a huge loss of life, second after the United States.
Walid Abu Ali, the Palestinian ambassador to Thailand, makes a video call to a Thai press briefing held by the Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC-Thailand) at the Foundation of the Islamic Centre of Thailand. (Photo: Pattarapong Chatpattarasil)
Twenty-one Thais have been killed in the attacks since last weekend, with another 14 injured and 16 now being held hostage, according to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA).
Ms Sagiv said Israel considers the safe evacuation of Thais and indeed all people to be a top priority so they can be repatriated, said Mr Srettha.
“Now it’s likely that Egypt, the UAE [United Arab Emirates] and Saudi Arabia are three ideal places where Thai people will be evacuated first and then repatriated later when flights are available,” he said.
The PM said he was relieved to hear that repatriation flights could begin immediately from Israel as around 99% of the local population has been evacuated away from the red zone of the war — from within a 4-kilometre radius of Gaza.
The number of Thais who have informed the Thai embassy in Tel Aviv of their intention to leave Israel jumped to 6,778 on Friday. The MFA said it aims to repatriate 400 per day.
In addition to the flights arranged by the air force, Thai AirAsia and Nok Air have agreed to each help arrange two repatriation flights.
Thai Airways International may have to pick them up from a nearby country instead as it does not usually fly to the Israeli capital, Mr Srettha said.
To pave the way for this operation, the MFA is speeding up negotiations with four countries where these flights will have to pass through their airspace, he added.
More commercial airlines are being urged to pitch in as the combined capacity of the parties participating in this operation at present can only transport 200 passengers per day back to Thailand, said the PM. That would take a month to get all the Thais home.
Mr Srettha also asked Israel via its ambassador to fast-track hostage negotiations with Hamas. He said the Thai government is also trying to secure talks using various channels.
He said he was unable to reveal details for security reasons but insisted the government was doing its best to bring the 16 detained Thais home.
As for the bodies of the 21 Thais killed in Israel, Mr Srettha said Ms Sagiv assured him the Israeli government was well aware of Thailand’s desire to repatriate them.
However, as there are around 1,000 bodies waiting to be identified before they can be released, this could take some time, she reportedly told him.
The identification of the dead must be completed in Israel as required by the Israeli government’s provision of lifetime financial compensation to the bereaved families, said Mr Srettha.
The Israeli ambassador also agreed to pursue investigations into cases where Thai workers in Israel trying to flee to safety have complained that they are being forced by their employers to continue working even during the war, Mr Srettha said.