11 Thai nationals abducted by Hamas; Thailand PM: ‘They are innocent’

Nepal’s ambassador to Israel says 17 students injured during assault and still stuck in Kibbutz Alumim, urges authorities to extract them

Gavriel Fiske is a reporter at The Times of Israel

Foreign nationals being held by Hamas gunmen, in an unconfirmed photo distributed on social media. (Used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)
Foreign nationals being held by Hamas gunmen, in an unconfirmed photo distributed on social media. (Used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)

The Foreign Ministry of Thailand said Sunday that 11 of its nationals had been abducted during the fighting in southern Israel and presumably brought to Gaza.

Meanwhile, Nepal’s ambassador in Israel confirmed that 17 Nepalese agriculture students were caught up in the fighting, and 11 of them sustained injuries.

The Thai students “are innocent and have nothing to do with any conflict,” Thai Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin said, according to the Bangkok Post.

There are some 5,000 Thais in areas of southern Israel currently under a war footing, according to Bangkok. Most are there as farmhands in agricultural communities, some of which came under attack in Saturday’s initial onslaught.

Thawatchai and Thongkhoon Onkeaw said a picture appearing to show Thai workers being held by Hamas gunmen included their son, Natthaporn Onkeaw, 26, the Post reported.

The picture, distributed on the Telegram messaging app, showed at least five men sitting in the dirt with their hands behind their backs in what appeared to be a bunker, as masked gunmen trained rifles on them.

In addition to the hostages, two Thai nationals died in the violence, Thailand’s prime minister said Sunday. He did not share further details, but said Thailand’s foreign ministry was working to evacuate its nationals from the country.

Earlier, Cambodia’s Prime Minister Hun Manet confirmed the death of a Cambodian student who was in the country when the violence erupted.

Nepalese students ready to depart for their studies in Israel, posted on September 13, 2023. (Facebook screen capture from Israel in Nepal page, used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)

A group of agricultural students from Nepal were caught up in the Hamas assault on Saturday while working on a farm near the Gaza Strip, and most remained holed up in a kibbutz bomb shelter as of noon Sunday.

“Eleven students were injured in the fighting. They are in Kibbutz Alumim. In total, 17 students were working on the farm,” Kanta Riza, Nepal’s ambassador to Israel, told The Times of Israel. Three of the students are seriously injured and noted that one or two remain missing, she added, although she denied reports that some had been captured by Hamas and taken to the Gaza Strip.

The students are “emotionally collapsed, numb,” she said, and cited reports that they don’t have drinking water. “Four of the students have been admitted to a hospital, and two have been rescued by the owner of the farm, who has taken them to his house.”

“I have been asking all the authorities… to rescue them from their shelter. I am really urging the Israel government to rescue them,” Riza added.

The students were studying in a year-long program at the Sedot Negev Agriculture Training Center in Netivot in the south. According to a press release from the Nepal Students’ Union, there are some 49 students from Nepal currently studying agriculture in Israel.

The Gaza-based Hamas terror group launched an unprecedented assault on Israel on Saturday morning, firing thousands of rockets and sending gunmen into Israeli communities by land, sea and air, killing at least 300 people and injuring over 1,800 by Sunday morning. The toll was expected to rise.

The multi-pronged attack, coming a day after Israel marked the 50th anniversary of the surprise invasion on Yom Kippur, caught the military and other security forces completely by surprise.

Hamas gunmen overran at least one military base and gunmen moved through Israeli border communities, killing and capturing residents, apparently with little resistance from Israeli forces, residents said.

Times of Israel staff and agencies contributed to this report.

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