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Filipino hostages freed – Two OFWs now safe in Israel 

JIIMY WITH AMBASSADOR Noralyn Babadilla
Filipino caregiver Jimmy Pacheco, 33, was released by Hamas militants on November 24. L-r: Migrant Workers Office Tel Aviv Labor Attaché Rodolfo Gabasan, Pacheco, and Philippine Ambassador to Israel Pedro Laylo Jr. at Shamir Medical Center in Tel Aviv. Photo from Philippine Embassy in Israel
Filipino caregiver Noralin Babadilla, 60, was released by Hamas militants on November 28. Photo from  Israel Embassy in Manila

The Israeli and Philippine governments have welcomed the release of Noralin Babadilla, the last Filipino left unaccounted for following the October 7 assault on Israel. She was among those kidnapped by Hamas in Gaza.

“The Israeli Embassy in Manila expresses great relief upon the release of Noralin ‘Nataly’ Babadilla from captivity by Hamas after 53 days,” the Israel Embassy in Manila said on Wednesday, November 29. 

In a statement, President Ferdinand R. Marcos, Jr. said all Filipinos caught up in the war have been accounted for.

The embassy said Babadilla, a caregiver and a dual citizen, was visiting friends in Kibbutz Nirim with her partner, Gidon Babani, when the Hamas attack happened. Babani was killed, while Babadilla was brought to Gaza.

Meanwhile, the first OFW released from captivity, Gelienor “Jimmy” Pacheco, one of the 24 hostages and only Filipino released by Hamas from Gaza on November 24, is in high spirits as he continues to undergo full physical and psychological examination in Israel. The Philippine Embassy in Tel Aviv said that Pacheco appears to be in good health. “He is able to walk and move without difficulty and speaks coherently,” it said in a statement.

Pacheco, who was abducted during the Hamas attack in Kibbutz Nir Oz on October 7, was freed after 49 days in captivity.

Babadilla and Pacheco are undergoing medical evaluation at a Tel Aviv hospital. They will both receive support from the Israeli government as given to all “victims of terror,” the embassy said. 

“Our thoughts and prayers remain for the safe release of the 150 plus hostages, including nine children, still held in captivity by the terror organization Hamas,” the embassy said. “The Israeli government is committed and will do whatever is needed to bring them back home,” it added. 

Six Filipinos were initially reported missing after the Hamas attack last month, but four of them were later confirmed to have been among the 1,200 people killed, most of them civilians.

In a statement, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) extended its gratitude to Qatar and Israel for their roles in the release of hostages during the four-day truce in the Gaza Strip. It also thanked Egypt and the International Committee of the Red Cross for their help.

“We extend our sincere thanks to the State of Israel for agreeing to the conditions which facilitated the release of more hostages, including Ms. Babadilla, and for all the assistance they have provided our nationals in Israel,” DFA spokesperson Ma. Teresita Daza said.

“We acknowledge and appreciate the mediation efforts of the State of Qatar that led to the release of Ms. Babadilla, and previously of Mr. Jimmy Pacheco,” Daza added.

According to Daza, at least 111 Filipinos have been evacuated from Gaza, with 109 of them already back in the Philippines. A total of 21 Palestinian spouses have also been evacuated to the Philippines. There are still 26 Filipinos in Gaza, which is under Alert Level 4 or forced repatriation, she added.

Sources: PNA/Israel Embassy in Manila