Thailand evacuates 7,400 farm workers from Israel after 34 killed in Hamas attack

Thai government in negotiations for release of 24 workers taken hostage by Palestinian militants on October 7

The parents of Natthaporn, who was working in Israel and was taken hostage by Hamas on October 7, show photos of him at their house in Nakhon Phanom, Thailand. Reuters
Powered by automated translation

Live updates: Follow the latest news on Israel-Gaza

Thailand has evacuated 7,400 farm workers from Israel after 34 of its citizens were killed and 24 taken hostage by Hamas militants in the October 7 attack, officials said.

The Thai agricultural workers were among the 1,400 killed, mainly Israeli civilians, and about 240 taken hostage by Hamas.

Sorayut Chasombat, Thailand’s ambassador to the UAE, said 19 Thais were injured, four of whom are being treated in Tel Aviv hospitals.

Thais have posted videos on Facebook that show them tending crops when the assault began early on October 7. Some are seen running for cover as Hamas launches a barrage of rockets at Israeli communities near the Gaza border.

Photographs released by Hamas show Thai workers, their hands bound, sitting on the floor with a gun pointed at them.

Israel retaliated with air strikes on the Gaza Strip that have killed more than 10,500 people, including more than 4,300 children.

Hostage negotiations

Mr Chasombat said his country was grieving for the Thais who had lost their lives.

“We have suffered heavy casualties out of Israel,” he told The National.

“It is a big number for Thailand – 34 Thais died, 19 injured and we still have at least 24 hostages. We are very concerned about their safety and hope they will come back home.

We lost many lives and the men were very anxious to get out of harm’s way
Sorayut Chasombat, Thailand’s ambassador to the UAE

“They went to work in farms and were not involved in anything.”

He said his government was involved in talks over the release of hostages.

“Diplomatically we have been working very hard with friendly countries that might have channels to communicate with groups.

“We have been talking to friends to try and get the release of Thai nationals.”

Parnpree Bahiddha-Nukara, Thailand's Foreign Minister, flew to the Middle East last week to meet officials in Iran, Egypt and Qatar as part of efforts to free the hostages.

Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin this week said the Thai hostages were alive, according to photographs received by the government.

Evacuation flights

There were about 30,000 Thais working in Israel at the time of the Hamas attack, most of them on farms.

Mr Chasombat met some of the workers en route to Thailand and said they were traumatised at seeing their colleagues shot and wounded.

“We lost many lives and the men were very anxious to get out of harm’s way,” he said.

“They said they survived but some of their friends perished."

A total of 8,000 men were registered to leave Israel when Thailand announced the evacuation flights. The Thai government said it was monitoring the situation and would organise more repatriation flights for workers who decided to return to their families.

Thai diplomatic missions in the Gulf region assisted with evacuation flights from Tel Aviv to Bangkok.

Yahel Kurlander, a professor at Tel-Hai College in northern Israel who specialises in labour migration, was among those who assisted the workers.

“They were highly traumatised from the death of their friends,” she said.

“They needed mental health help and we were able to provide them with a place they could rest and get help.”

In online posts on October 7, videos show burnt houses and cars, and Thai workers with bullet wounds receiving first aid in warehouses to which they ran for shelter.

Thai workers at a farm in the Mivtahim area near the Gaza Strip described militants storming the community.

"There are terrorists shooting around the camp, bullets are flying everywhere," one wrote in a message to his friends.

“Don’t leave the room! The gunshots are still ringing!”

Other foreign workers killed by Hamas militants include at least four Filipino caregivers. Two Filipinos were taken hostage, according to the Philippines Foreign Ministry.

Updated: November 08, 2023, 5:21 PM