Taiwan condemns Hamas attack on Israeli civilians, raises travel alert
Taipei, Oct. 8 (CNA) Taiwan's government has condemned the Palestinian militant group Hamas' attack on Israeli civilians early Saturday that killed hundreds of people, and has raised its travel warning for the Middle Eastern country.
Backed by a barrage of rockets, Hamas militants from the blockaded Gaza Strip stormed into nearby Israeli towns in an unprecedented surprise attack during a major Jewish holiday Saturday, killing dozens of people and abducting others.
Responding to the incident, Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declared the country is "at war."
In a late Saturday press statement, Taiwan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) "condemned the terrorist attacks against innocent Israeli civilians carried out by Hamas."
According to MOFA, Anthony Ho (賀忠義), head of the Department of West Asian and African Affairs under the ministry, immediately extended the nation's condolence to Maya Yaron, Israel's representative in Taiwan, upon learning of the deadly attack.
MOFA also said that so far there have been no reports of Taiwanese nationals being injured during Saturday's attack.
In case of emergency when visiting Israel, Taiwanese nationals are advised to call Taiwan's representative office in Israel at +972-544-275-204 or MOFA's Taipei headquarters' toll free 24/7 hotline at +886-800-085-095 to seek assistance, MOFA added.
Meanwhile, the ministry raised its travel alert for Israel to "yellow" following Saturday's attack, advising people to reconsider any travel plans to Israel and pay special attention to their safety if they must go there.
Under the ministry's four-color travel alert system, the lowest warning level is gray, followed by yellow, orange, and red. The highest red alert advises people to refrain from traveling to the country or region in question.
According to Taiwan's Tourism Administration, there are currently five tour groups from Taiwan with a total of 124 people in Israel, and all are safe.
Among the five tour groups, the one with Lion Travel is scheduled to return to Taiwan on Sunday, while the group with Yung Shin Travel will have parts of its itinerary cancelled and return to Taiwan as soon as possible, the administration said in a statement.
It added that all other tour groups are in northern Israel and have not been affected.
The Tourism Administration said that it is keeping a close eye on the situation and will offer assistance as needed.
Lee Chi-yuen (李奇嶽), a spokesman of the Taipei-based Travel Quality Assurance Association, told reporters Sunday that local travel agencies are likely to suspend sending tour groups to Israel temporarily or alter the tour itineraries.
According to the association, less than 10,000 Taiwanese people travel to Israel in tour groups annually, making the country a relatively small tourist market due to the lack of direct flights and high costs.
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