Seventeen Thai hostages kidnapped and held for weeks by Hamas in the Gaza Strip landed Thursday in Bangkok, where overjoyed relatives waited to welcome them home.
Tens of thousands of Thais were working in Israel, mostly in the agricultural sector, when Palestinian militants poured over the border on October 7, killing 1,200 people and kidnapping about 240, according to Israeli authorities.
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At least 32 Thais were abducted by Hamas, with Bangkok’s foreign ministry and Thai Muslim groups working to negotiate their release.
An El-Al flight carrying the party from Tel Aviv landed at Suvarnabhumi airport soon after 3:00 pm (0800 GMT).
“The plane has landed. They are being processed now,” a foreign ministry official told AFP.
Accompanying the party is Thai Foreign Minister Parnpree Bahiddha-Nukara, who flew to Israel earlier this week.
Lumpong Pinakalo, 51, whose son is among the hostages, anxiously waited with other families for their arrival.
“I’ve been following the news. At first when his name didn’t appear as a hostage I was shocked thinking that he would be dead,” she told AFP.
Ten of the hostages were released last Friday, as a truce began following weeks of negotiations brokered by Qatar, Egypt and the United States. Seven more were set free by Hamas in the days that followed.
The group has been recuperating at a hospital in Israel as authorities prepared to fly them home, Thai officials said.
Six more Thais were released on Tuesday and Wednesday and are undergoing medical checks, the foreign ministry said, taking the total number freed to 23, with nine still in captivity.
Israel retaliated to the Hamas attack with a massive campaign of air, artillery and naval strikes alongside a ground offensive into Gaza, killing nearly 15,000 people, mostly civilians, according to Palestinian officials.
Thailand had 30,000 citizens in Israel when the raid occurred, the majority of them migrant workers from poorer provinces in the kingdom’s northeast.
Thirty-nine Thais have been killed and 19 wounded in the war, with the kingdom evacuating more than 8,500 of its people, according to Bangkok’s foreign ministry.