Israel-Gaza war: Filipino caregiver among first hostages freed by Hamas

One more Filipino, Noralyn Babadilla, is still missing and authorities believe she is also one of the hostages in Gaza

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Photos: Israel Embassy in Manila / Screengrab from X
Photos: Israel Embassy in Manila / Screengrab from X

Published: Sat 25 Nov 2023, 10:15 AM

Last updated: Sat 25 Nov 2023, 1:34 PM

Filipino caregiver Gelienor 'Jimmy' Pacheco was among the first wave of hostages that Hamas released on Friday in exchange for the freedom of Palestinian prisoners in Israel.

Authorities in Manila on Saturday confirmed that Pacheco is now in Israel, where he is undergoing medical evaluations.

"The Israeli Embassy in Manila expresses its relief upon the release of Mr. Jimmy Pacheco from captivity by Hamas," the mission said in a statement.

Philippine President Ferdinand 'Bongbong' Marcos said he was "overjoyed" as he commended those who worked on securing the expat's release. "I salute the work of the Philippine Foreign Service, and once again thank the State of Qatar for their invaluable assistance in making Jimmy’s release possible," he said.

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One more Filipino, Noralyn Babadilla, is still missing and authorities believe she has been taken hostage, too, during Hamas' October 7 attack on Israel.

"We remain concerned over the whereabouts of our other national, Ms. Noralyn Babadilla, and are sparing no effort to locate and secure her if she is indeed found to be one of the hostages," Marcos said.

Hamas released 24 hostages in total, according to key mediator Qatar and an official Israeli list. They comprised 13 Israelis, some of them dual citizens, 10 Thais and one Filipino citizen. Israel in turn freed 39 women and children from its prisons.

During a carefully orchestrated swap carried out at the start of a four-day ceasefire, Israelis beeped horns and applauded in the street as ambulances took the hostages to hospital for check-ups in the late evening. In Palestine, homes and streets erupted in tears of joy as families were reunited with loved ones who had spent years in Israeli prisons.

Hamas is expected to free 50 hostages during the ceasefire in exchange for 150 Palestinian prisoners, part of an agreement struck after talks involving Israel, Palestinian militant groups, Qatar, Egypt and the United States.

(With inputs from Agencies)

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