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Philippines’ Rodrigo Duterte says Israel should ‘crush Hamas’, turn Gaza into ‘world’s biggest cemetery’

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Former Philippine president Rodrigo Duterte, known for his colourful language, has suggested Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu crush Gaza and turn the Hamas-controlled territory into the “world’s biggest cemetery”, after escalating attacks from both sides left more than 2,000 people dead.

Israel relentlessly bombarded the Gaza Strip with hundreds of air strikes after Palestinian militants last Saturday rained rockets on the Jewish state and gunmen stormed its cities, killing hundreds and abducting dozens, including foreigners.

Duterte told broadcaster SMNI News that if he were Netanyahu, he would eliminate Hamas by razing the sealed-off enclave to the ground.

“I will crush Hamas. I will give them 48 hours to get out of the place. If not, I will flatten it. No more Gaza to fight for,” said Duterte, who retired from politics in 2022 after completing his six-year term in office.

Destruction in Gaza City’s al-Karama district. Photo: AFP

He also urged civilians to back off because he would “pulverise Gaza and make it the biggest cemetery in the world”.

Duterte has made controversial remarks and insulted world leaders in the past, including Pope Francis and former US president Barack Obama, whom he once called “ son of a w***e”.
Duterte described the conflict as a “proxy war” between Netanyahu’s country, Iran and “radical Arab states”, adding it has hurt Filipinos who were in Israel to earn a living.
He chided President Ferdinand Marcos Jnr’s administration for not calling out the violence, The Manila Bulletin reported.

However, Manila denounced the attacks last week and mourned the deaths of two Filipinos in Israel.

“My heart is heavy upon hearing confirmation of the deaths of two Filipinos in Israel. The Philippines condemns these killings and stands firmly against the ongoing terror and violence,” Marcos said on Wednesday.

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Israel declares war after Hamas launches surprise attack, killing hundreds of people

Israel declares war after Hamas launches surprise attack, killing hundreds of people

Israel’s envoy to the Philippines Ilan Fluss expressed his condolences to the families of the victims as Manila advised its nationals to delay their trips to the Middle Eastern nation until the offensive ends.

According to the United Nations, the Israeli air strikes had also left several Gaza neighbourhoods reduced to rubble and forced more than 260,000 people to flee their homes.

Manila’s Department of Foreign Affairs earlier said six of its citizens remain missing in Israel, where about 30,000 Filipinos work, mostly as carers. Some 167 are in Gaza.

It said dozens of Filipinos, including the ones living in Gaza, have sought to return home, while the Department of Migrant Workers said there was still no ban on deploying labourers to the war-hit country.

The Armed Forces of the Philippines said it has devised a possible evacuation plan for stranded Filipinos and kept military transport aircraft on standby.

Muslim activists in Jakarta carry Palestinian flags at a rally calling for an end to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Photo: EPA-EFE

Across Southeast Asia, there continue to be varied responses to Hamas’s Saturday attack.

In Singapore, former senior diplomat Bilahari Kausikan penned a lengthy post on Facebook criticising arguments that the “root cause” of the current violence had to be addressed.
Pro-Hamas voices, including prominent supporters in Muslim-majority Malaysia and Indonesia, have suggested that Israel must bear some responsibility for the violence because of its treatment of Gaza residents.

“The logic of the ‘root cause’ argument about Palestine or terrorism in general is fundamentally flawed,” Bilahari, a former permanent secretary of the republic’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, wrote.

“Just because one party commits injustices does not excuse injustice by another party and this is really just an excuse for terrorism masquerading as an ‘explanation’,” he added.

In Malaysia, top leaders across the political divide have voiced support for Palestinians. Abdul Hadi Awang, the leader of the opposition PAS party, on Tuesday urged citizens to fly the Palestinian flags outside their homes, on vehicles and shop premises to “show our support with the Palestinian people who are facing the cruel and tyrannical Israeli regime”.

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