Philippine president announces last Filipino hostage freed from Hamas

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Philippine President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. announced that all Filipinos affected by the ongoing conflict between Israeli forces and Hamas have been “accounted for,” celebrating the release of Noralyn Babadilla from Gaza.

Marcos’s announcement: The release of Babadilla, 60, on Wednesday marked the second and last Filipino released from Gaza after they were taken hostage by Hamas. President Marcos expressed happiness over Babadilla's safe return, thanking Israel for facilitating her release and for aiding Filipinos in the war-torn country.

“Just days after expressing concern for Noralyn Babadilla's whereabouts, I am very happy to announce that Noralyn is safely back in Israel, becoming the second Filipino released from Gaza,” Marcos tweeted. “I have entrusted our officials at the Philippine Embassy in Tel Aviv to attend to her needs in coordination with Israeli authorities. With this positive development, I am pleased to inform the nation that all Filipinos affected by the war have been accounted for.”

Marcos also extended his gratitude to Egypt and the State of Qatar for “their crucial role in this process over the past several weeks.”

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About Babadilla: Babadilla’s release comes shortly after another Filipino, Gelienor “Jimmy” Pacheco, 33, was freed by Hamas on Friday after 49 days in captivity. Babadilla was reportedly abducted in Nirim, a kibbutz in southern Israel, when she was visiting friends on Oct. 7 along with her partner Gideon Babani, who was killed in the surprise attack by Hamas militants.

Department of Foreign Affairs Undersecretary Eduardo de Vega, who noted officials initially believed Babadilla had been killed, said that it is currently unclear whether Babadilla, who holds dual citizenship in Israel, intends to return to the Philippines. However, he noted that the Israeli government has committed to addressing her financial requirements. President Marcos also assured the monitoring of the situation in the conflict areas and coordination with international partners to ensure the welfare and safety of Filipinos in Israel.

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Temporary truce: Babadilla and Pacheco were freed as part of the ceasefire agreed to by Israel and Hamas, wherein three Palestinian prisoners are released for every Israeli hostage allowed out of Gaza. The four-day ceasefire, which started on Friday, was extended for two more days, raising the exchanges of hostages and prisoners.

So far, 86 individuals out of approximately 240 taken to Gaza have been freed, including 17 Thai nationals. As for Israel, they have released 180 Palestinian prisoners as of Wednesday, according to Qatar's government.

Death toll: Four Filipinos have lost their lives in the ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas. Overall, more than 13,300 Palestinians, mostly women and children, and more than 1,200 people on the Israeli side, mostly civilians, have been killed in the war.

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