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Distraught parents of Thai national taken hostage by Hamas beg for his release: ‘I’m speechless’

Natthaporn Onkaew, a 26-year-old farm worker from Thailand, is among the people held captive by Hamas

Alisha Rahaman Sarkar
Tuesday 10 October 2023 13:50 BST
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Bombs drop on Gaza throughout night

The distraught parents of a Thai national taken hostage by Hamas begged for his release on Tuesday, as Thailand said at least 18 of its nationals had been killed in the sudden escalation of violence in Israel.

Thailand's deputy foreign minister Jakkapong Sangmanee on Tuesday said the government was working to evacuate thousands of Thai nationals from the conflict zone.

Natthaporn Onkaew, a 26-year-old farm worker from the northeastern village of Baan Nong Saeng, was among the 11 people held captive by Hamas in Gaza, his emotional parents said.

His family recognised him from a photo posted on social media of hostages sitting with hands seemingly tied behind their backs.

“He was going to play soccer with his friend. Then he hung up the phone,” his mother Thongkoon Onkaew told Reuters about their last phone call on Friday.

“I want them to release my son ... I’m speechless,” she said, urging the Thai government to help “the hostages as soon as possible”.

Mr Natthaporn is the lone breadwinner for the family and sends a remittance of 30,000-40,000 baht (£666 - £888) each month to his family in the village, which covers his sister’s school fees.

He left Thailand for Israel two years ago despite his family being concerned for his safety in the conflict zone.

“I asked him: ‘Are you sure that you want to go to this dangerous country where there are conflicts all the time?’ But he said it was fine,” his father Thawatchai Onkaew told Reuters.

Nine Thai citizens have sustained injuries in the conflict that ensued on Saturday following Hamas's attack on Israel.

Mr Jakkapong said there were about 30,000 Thai nationals working in Israel and nearly 5,000 of them had been evacuated from high-risk areas to safety.

The first group was expected to return on Thursday, he said, adding the repatriation process would initially depend on commercial and chartered flights as military aircraft were not allowed to land in Israel, the Bangkok Post reported.

At least 900 people have been killed in Israel after prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu declared "war" on Hamas following the militant group's surprise attack on the country. Israel responded by raining missiles on Gaza, which killed nearly 700 people since Saturday.

The Israeli authorities have ordered a “complete siege” of Gaza, cutting off food, electricity and fuel as Hamas threatened to execute hostages.

Hamas spokesperson Abu Ubaida on Monday said the militants would execute an Israeli captive for every Israeli bombing of a civilian house without warning.

A view of the rubble of buildings hit by an Israeli airstrike, in Gaza City (AP)
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The Thai government said it did not have information on the hostages' conditions, but is in touch with Israeli authorities and hoped Hamas will not harm them.

The foreign ministry said the Israeli police were using facial recognition technology to find missing people.

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