Thai hostages set to return after release by Hamas

Thai hostages set to return after release by Hamas

on November 30, 2023

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Thai nationals who were taken hostage by Hamas militants and recently released, wave from inside a bus as they leave the Shamir Medical Center near the city of Ramla, heading toward the airport to be flown home, on November 29, 2023. (Photo by Oren ZIV / AFP)
An International Red Cross vehicle carrying Thai hostages released by Hamas drives towards the Rafah border point with Egypt ahead of their transfer to Israel on November 26, 2023. The Israeli army said in a statement on November 26, 2023 that 13 released hostages were back on Israeli territory, and another four were on their way via the Rafah crossing between the Gaza Strip and Egypt. (Photo by Mahmud HAMS / AFP)

BANGKOK, Nov 30, 2023 (AFP) – Seventeen Thai hostages kidnapped and held for weeks by Hamas in the Gaza Strip are expected to return home on Thursday to be met by overjoyed relatives at the Bangkok airport.

Tens of thousands of Thais were working in Israel, mostly in the agricultural sector, when Palestinian militants poured over the border on October 7, killing 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and kidnapping about 240, according to Israeli authorities.

At least 32 Thais were abducted by Hamas, with Bangkok’s foreign ministry and Thai Muslim groups working to negotiate their release.

On Thursday, at around 3:00 pm (0800 GMT), 17 are expected to land at the capital’s Suvarnabhumi airport following weeks in captivity.

Accompanying them is Thai Foreign Minister Parnpree Bahiddha-Nukara, who flew to Israel earlier this week.

Thai nationals who were taken hostage by Hamas militants and recently released, walk toward a bus as they leave the Shamir Medical Center near the city of Ramla, heading toward the airport to be flown home, on November 29, 2023. (Photo by Oren ZIV / AFP)
Thai nationals who were taken hostage by Hamas militants and recently released, walk toward a bus as they leave the Shamir Medical Center near the city of Ramla, heading toward the airport to be flown home, on November 29, 2023. (Photo by Oren ZIV / AFP)

Ten of the group were released last Friday, as a truce began following weeks of negotiations brokered by Qatar, Egypt and the United States. Seven more were set free by Hamas in the days that followed.

The group has been recuperating at a hospital in Israel as authorities made preparations to fly them home, Thai officials said.

Four more Thais were released on Wednesday and are undergoing medical checks, the foreign ministry said, taking the total number freed to 23, with nine still in captivity.

Israel retaliated to the Hamas attack with a massive campaign of air, artillery and naval strikes alongside a ground offensive into Gaza, killing nearly 15,000 people, mostly civilians, according to Palestinian officials.

Thailand had 30,000 citizens in Israel when the raid occurred, the majority of them migrant workers from poorer provinces in the kingdom’s northeast.

Thirty-nine Thais have been killed and 19 wounded in the war, with the kingdom evacuating more than 8,500 of its people, according to Bangkok’s foreign ministry.