Thailand releases images of hostages freed by Hamas but says 20 of its nationals still held | Israel-Hamas war #Thailand #releases #images #hostages #freed #Hamas #nationals #held #IsraelHamas #war

The 10 Thai hostages released on Friday are now being supervised in an Israeli hospital, the Thai government has said, adding that a further 20 of its nationals are still being held hostage.

In a statement, Thailand’s ministry of foreign affairs said the group was now accompanied by embassy officials and staying at Shamir medical centre, south-east of Tel Aviv.

Images of those freed, released by the Thai government, show them smiling beside medical staff at the hospital. They include nine men and one woman.

“This group will stay in the hospital for at least 48 hours, while RTE [the royal Thai embassy] will make all the necessary arrangements for their travel back to Thailand and their families as soon as possible,” the ministry said, confirming that a previous report suggesting 12 Thais had been released was incorrect.

The ministry added that a further 20 Thai nationals were still being held – an increase on the previous estimate, as four of the people released on Friday had not been officially confirmed as hostages.

“We sincerely hope that the remaining hostages will be treated humanely and released safely as soon as possible,” the ministry said.

Thousands of Thais worked in Israel’s agricultural sector before 7 October, and the Israeli government has said they make up the biggest group of foreign people killed or missing in the Hamas attacks.

According to the Thai government, 39 of its nationals have been killed, while three people remain in hospital.

The release of Thai nationals on Friday followed weeks of negotiations by the Thai government, which has met with officials in Qatar and Egypt, as well as meeting for two hours with Hamas in Tehran.

Areepen Uttarasin, a lead negotiator, said at the time that he had emphasised the innocence of Thai nationals, and had been assured they were being looked after.

Neighbouring Malaysia, which is a vocal supporter of Palestine and does not have diplomatic relations with Israel, has also taken part in the effort to get the Thai hostages released.

The 10 Thais freed were brought to Rafah, hours after a temporary truce in the fighting in Gaza began. They were then taken to the Kerem Shalom crossing, before being transported to a processing point at Hatzerim air force base, according to the Thai government.

Before the war, 30,000 Thai workers were employed in Israel, with about 5,000 working in areas close to the Gaza Strip. Many Thais move from poorer, rural areas of Thailand to work in Israel, where the wages are much higher.

On Saturday, Thailand thanked governments and other organisations that have helped secure the first group’s release, saying: “The Thai government would like to express, once again, its deepest appreciation to all of the parties from whom the Thai authorities had sought assistance and support, such as the governments of Qatar, Israel, Egypt, Iran, Malaysia and the ICRC [International Committee of the Red Cross], as well as others involved in the immense efforts that led to this recent release.”

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