TWO Filipino doctors working for international medical humanitarian group Doctors Without Borders (Médecins Sans Frontières or MSF) were finally allowed to leave the besieged Gaza Strip.
The names of the Filipinos—Dr. Darwin Dela Cruz and Dr. Regidor Esguerra—were among those in the published list of foreign workers of nongovernment organizations trapped inside the enclave.
Rafah Crossing, the border between Gaza and Egypt, was finally opened last Wednesday for the first time since the October 7 surprise Hamas attacks in southern Israel. Since the attacks, Israel launched retaliatory missile attacks and ground assault on Gaza Strip, killing 8,300 people.
The two Filipino doctors are among the 138 Filipinos in Gaza Strip who were told by the Philippine government to evacuate. For two weeks, majority of the Filipinos moved to southern Gaza, waiting for the Rafah Crossing to open so they can be evacuated to Egypt.
After weeks of negotiations, the US, Israel, Egyptian governments and Hamas agreed to allow the exit of 81 severely injured Palestinians, and 400 foreign nationals and dual citizens.
Foreign Affairs Undersecretary Eduardo De Vega said, “We welcome the decision to open the Rafah crossing for foreign nationals, starting with members of international organizations. Already, there are two Filipino doctors with Doctors Without Borders who are included in the initial list of foreign nationals to be allowed exit from Gaza.”
Philippine Ambassador to Amman Wilfredo Santos, whose Embassy exercises consular jurisdiction over Palestine territories, said once the Filipino doctors are cleared by border authorities of both sides, the MSF will escort them to Cairo.
A team from the Philippine Embassy in Egypt will assist them and arrange their repatriation to the Philippines.
This leaves to 136 the number of Filipinos who are still inside Gaza Strip.
“Israel and Egypt are both friends of the Philippines and it is our sincere hope that Filipino nationals will be prioritized among the foreign civilians to be allowed exit from Gaza into Egypt,” De Vega said.