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MANILA, Philippines – Nearly two weeks after tensions erupted into war between the militant Hamas and Israel, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) on Friday, October 20, called on both sides to “create safe, rapid and unimpeded passage of humanitarian corridors.”
“We, the Member States of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), are gravely concerned over the recent escalation of armed conflicts in the Middle East,” read the ASEAN Foreign Ministers’ statement.
The statement addressed the “recent escalation of armed conflict in the Middle East.”
The block called on the “immediate end of violence to avoid further human casualties and call for the full respect of International Humanitarian Law.”
The Philippines had made the same statement recently, calling on both Israel and Hamas to “protect civilians” amid war, after a blast hit the Al Ahli Arab Hospital in Gaza City, killing over hundreds of people. Both sides have blamed each other for the blast.
Based on data compiled by the United Nations, at least 1,400 Israelis have been killed while over 3,800 Palestinians have died in Gaza and the West Bank since Hamas launched a surprise attack against Israel on October 7.
Israel has since responded by launching attacks on Gaza, the base of Hamas. But critics have pointed out that Israel has also targeted civilian structures in their assault – the Israelis have insisted these structures were being used by Hamas.
While it’s been fairly easy for people in Israel to flee should they wish to, it’s a different story inside the Palestinian territory Gaza.
The Philippines has placed Gaza under Alert Level 4, meaning all its citizens must repatriate. But it’s been impossible to do so – Rafah Crossing, the only identified way out of Gaza, has been impassable and has even been hit by Israeli attacks.
Close to 100 Filipinos are waiting at the crossing, in hopes of repatriation.
Despite days of negotiations, there remains an impasse on how foreigners who want to flee Gaza can leave. “We call on all parties to create safe, rapid and unimpeded passage of humanitarian corridors,” the ASEAN foreign ministers said.
“We further call on all parties to protect and ensure safety and security to all civilians, including ASEAN nationals, and the immediate and unconditional release of all hostages,” added the bloc, referring to some 200 people believed kidnapped by Hamas during their assault on southern Israeli towns.
ASEAN foreign ministers also affirmed their belief in a “negotiated two-State solution that allows both Israelis and Palestinians to live side-by-side in peace.”
“We urge the international community to support the peace process in order to ensure long lasting peace and stability in the region,” added the statement.
There are millions of ASEAN nationals in the Middle East. The Philippines alone has over 2.2 million living and working in that region. – Rappler.com