AS Israel and Hamas extended their truce, 12 more hostages – including a Filipino-Israeli woman – were released from captivity on Tuesday night (Wednesday morning Philippine time).
Noralin “Nataly or Nora” Agojo Babadilla, a 60-year old Filipina with Israeli dual citizenship, is the last Filipino captive released after being taken by the Hamas during the October 7 attacks in southern Israel.
Babadilla and her Israeli partner, Gidon Babani, are from central Israel and happened to be visiting friends in Kibbutz Nirim in southern Israel when Hamas fired rockets and stormed kibbutzim. Her partner was killed.
Little was known about Babadilla’s fate as many of the houses in Kibbutz Nirim were burned down. The Israeli government had said they are assuming she was among the 240 hostages since after more than 30 days of searching, she could not be found.
She was held for 53 days in Gaza Strip, presumably under the clandestine network of tunnels that Hamas built in the enclave.
Last Sunday, OFW caregiver Gelienor “Jimmy” Pacheco was among the first hostages released on the first day of truce between Israel and Hamas.
“With this positive development, I am pleased to inform the nation that all Filipinos affected by the war have been accounted for,” President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. said in a statement.
Qatari Foreign Ministry spokesman Dr. Majed Al Ansari first announced the release of 12 hostages including a Filipino national, without naming the hostage.
Qatar brokered the exchange prisoners and truce deal between Israel and Hamas.
Israeli media and social media sites identified and showed videos of Babadilla and other hostages being turned over to the International Committee of the Red Cross in the Rafah border crossing between southern Gaza and Egypt.
Hours later, President Marcos Jr. formally announced her release.
“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 Jr. said.
PHL thanks Qatar, Egypt, ICRC
The Department of Foreign Affairs also welcomed the release of Babadilla and once again thanked the Qatari government for helping negotiate her release.
“We extend our sincere thanks to the State of Israel for agreeing to the conditions which facilitated the release of more hostages including Ms Babadilla, and for all their assistance they have provided our nationals in Israel,” the DFA said.
Manila also “recognized the support and participation” of Egypt, the ICRC and other international organizations in the process.
“We remain committed to looking after the welfare of Filipinos affected by the ongoing conflict, and share the hope for the eventual cessation of all hostilities in the region,” the DFA said in a statement.
All accounted for
President Marcos, Jr. said all of the Filipinos affected by the Israel-Hamas conflict, including those who were hostaged, have now been accounted for.
This after he announced on Wednesday in a post in his X (formerly Twitter) that Babadilla has been freed.
“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 said.
The President thanked Israel, Egypt and Qatar for their role in facilitating the release of the hostages.
He assured the two released Filipinos of aid from the government.
“I have entrusted our officials at the Philippine Embassy in Tel Aviv to attend to her needs in coordination with Israeli authorities,” Marcos said.
The Department of Migrant Workers (DMW) will also provide assistance to the two victims.
“We at the DMW vow to remain resilient and devoted to providing care and assistance to our dear OFWs and their families, especially those who wish to come home and be reunited with their loved ones,” DMW officer-in-charge Hans J. Cacdac said in a statement.