On October 7th,2023, Hamas, the designated terrorist organization based in Gaza, launched a massive attack on Israel[i], employing thousands of rockets and subsequent assaults by land, air and sea. Paratroopers even infiltrated deep into territory under Israeli control. This attack inundated social media, igniting several reactions regarding Israel-Palestine decade long conflict and the atrocities committed by Hamas. Consequently, Israeli authorities decided to initiate a full-scale war against Hamas. To escalate the conflict further, Israel urged residents of
Northern Gaza to relocate to Southern[ii], as the Israel Defense Forces were launching a massive attack on the perceived Hamas headquarters located amid a civilian population.
In total, 1.1 million residents, as confirmed by the UN had to evacuate from Northern Gaza to save their lives[iii]. In an interview with 60 Minutes, the US president Biden remarked that any potential Israeli occupation of Gaza would be “big mistake” and had expressed support for the creation of a humanitarian corridor for people to leave Gaza and for providing aid to the vulnerable population[iv]. However, reports indicate that, Hamas has blocked routes for safe passage. The US president also emphasized the importance of a better understanding of ‘Hamas’ and ‘Palestine’, advocating for the elimination of Hamas. According to many analysts, the long-standing war between Israel-Palestine can be viewed as a clash of civilization. It is crucial to distinguish between Hamas and Palestine in order to comprehend the dynamics at play. Influential countries worldwide, such as the US, China, India, Russia, all supports a two- state solution, with an independent and sovereign state for Palestine. However, it is important to note that Hamas, who pretends to be the freedom fighters of Palestine, does not represent the official position of Palestine[v]. Due to the conflation of ‘Hamas’ and ‘Palestine’ by global media, many people have perceived them as single entity.
Whenever a war erupts, whether between groups or states, pro-grassroots individuals are often the ones who suffers the most. Illustrating this reality, when Hamas launched a massive attack on Israel, it is not only affected the lives of Israelis but also caused distress for foreigners. Among these foreigners, we find students, tourists and migrant workers. In this tragic scenario, ten Nepali have already lost their lives in Hamas attacks, and several others have been injured. According to the reports from Chatham House[vi] and the confirmation given by 254 evacuated Nepali citizens from Israel[vii], one Nepali is currently held hostage by Hamas. Aljazeera reports that, around 4500 Nepali reside in Israel, primarily working as caregivers, and 265 students are enrolled in various education programs[viii].
The allure of Israel as a destination for Nepali migrant work is substantial due to its relatively high salaries for caregivers, ($1600 per month)[ix], surpassing countries like Saudi or Qatar. This is a significant factor motivating Nepali to work in Israel, despite the long-standing conflict between Israel-Palestine. Furthermore, some who were compelled to migrate abroad have loans to repay, compels them to continue their work in a war zone, regardless of the perilous circumstances.
The Nepal Embassy in Tel Aviv, has already rescued 55 Nepali students who were working on farm land along the Israel-Gaza border[x]. Ongoing efforts to evacuate foreign citizens have initiated. For example, it was reported that the Rafah border gate would allow foreign nationals, including 600 US citizens, to cross into Egypt[xi]. However, it is important to note that such safe passage can’t guarantee the safety of all foreign nationals.
Nepal faces increasingly challenges in rescuing 4500 Nepali caregivers, if the war further deteriorates. Secondly, from the perspectives of these care givers, the likelihood of returning back to Nepal may be minimum due to the substantial loans they incurred while coming to Israel.
Repaying these loans is key, and returning back to Nepal doesn’t alleviate the complexities that they face.
As India has already start ‘Operation Ajay’ to evacuate Indians from Israel, Nepal has also dispatched a special flight to rescue 265 Nepali. Because of the instability of the Middle East and Nepal’s limited resources, collaboration with neighbor countries is imperative. This critical juncture presents an opportunity to establish a stand by ‘Joint Rescue Task Force’ Committee between Nepal and India. This is crucial considering the significant numbers of Nepali and Indians working as migrant workers in various Middle East countries. As per Arab News, nearly 9 million Indian expatriates live and work in the Gulf Cooperation Council countries, while more than 4 million Nepali migrants work in Middle East. Given the special relationship between Nepal-India, this Joint Task Committee can be highly effective as most of the migrants from both countries work together in the Middle East. This task force not only evacuates citizens during a crisis but also provides insights and projects possible future crises, allowing the government to prepare itself.
Therefore, establishing a stand by ‘Joint Rescue Task Force’ Committee could facilitate the immediate evacuations of citizens from each country in the event of war or human-induced calamities. In fact, the world is highly volatile and such a standby committee could save the lives of thousands of people.
- The views reflected in this article by the author doesn’t replicate the position of the organization with which author is associated.
[i] Death came from sea, air and ground: A timeline of surprise attack by Hamas on Israel
[ii] Israel warns half of Gaza’s population to move south, UN says
[iii] Israel tells 1.1 million Gazans to evacuate south. UN says order is ‘impossible’
[iv] Israel-Hamas war: Biden says Gaza occupation would be ‘big mistake’ – as it happened
[v] Abbas says Hamas does not represent Palestinians
[vi] Why Hamas has taken hostages?
[vii] Traumatised Nepali survivors of attack in Israel return home
[viii] ‘I want to see his body’: Nepali dreams turn into Israeli nightmare
[x] Israel-Hamas war: 55 Nepalis relocated to a safer haven
[xi] US advises its citizens in Gaza to move closer to Egypt’s Rafah crossing