Anxious mom yearns for clues about son missing in Israel

Responding to government’s call, over 200 Nepalis have applied to return home, Nepali mission in Tel Aviv says.

Padma Joshi (in red robes), mother of Bipin who is missing in war-stricken Israel, breaks down as she awaits the news of her son’s whereabouts.

Padma Joshi, mother of Bipin Joshi, a Nepali student who has gone missing in Israel since Hamas militants attacked Israel on Saturday, hasn’t had a single meal in the last three days.

The surprise attack, which left 10 Nepali students, who had reached the West Asian country under a ‘Learn and Earn Programme’, dead and four injured, also resulted in the loss of hundreds of Israeli lives.

Bipin is one of the 17 Nepali students who were living at Kibbutz Alumim in southern Israel, close to the Gaza Strip, and came under attack from the Islamist group which rules the strip, according to the foreign ministry.

However, two Nepali students emerged unharmed and they have been safely brought to Tel Aviv, where Nepali embassy is located, the embassy said in a press statement on Monday.

The embassy said it has intensified the search for the missing Nepali student with the support of local police, hospitals and other local institutions.

Back in Bipin’s hometown at Bhasi in far-western Nepal’s Kanchanpur district, his mother is anxiously waiting to receive any news that may come her way about her missing son. Whenever somebody visits her home, she asks if there’s any news about her son

As nobody has had a definite answer yet, she breaks into tears. Her relatives are struggling to comfort her. “It has been three days, but there is no news about my son,” she said, with tears streaming down her face. “How much longer do I have to wait to hear about him?”

Different bits of news coming from different sources have her and the family confused. She has also called on all those who can hear her to try to find his whereabouts. Padma had spoken with her son on Friday, just a day ahead of the surprise attack on Israel.

They had talked about his work in Israel. She learnt about the Hamas attack on Nepalis including her son on Saturday. Hours before Nepalis fell victims to the attack, Bipin had talked with his cousin Ishwar Joshi.

“He told us that their city in Israel was being attacked with bullets and bombs,” Ishwar said. Nepali students including Bipin were hiding in a bunker soon after the start of the attack. Bipin’s sister Pushpa has seen the message sent by Himanchal Kattel, from Kailali, who was injured in the attack, notifying that Bipin had been kidnapped.

Besides conducting a search operation for the missing Nepalis, Nepali embassy in Israel said that those working in agriculture farms close to the Israel-Gaza border are being evacuated to safer places.

“Two groups of Nepali students who were in risky zones have been brought to Tel Aviv,” Nepal’s foreign ministry said in a press statement on Monday. “Efforts are underway to take other students to safer places.”

Sewa Lamsal, spokesperson for the foreign ministry, said that around 18-19 Nepalis were being evacuated to safer locations on Monday.

“We are trying to take them away from the areas close to Gaza that are ruled by Hamas,” Lamsal said.

The Nepali embassy said that it was coordinating with the Israeli government and other stakeholders to send the bodies of the deceased Nepalis back home. The Cabinet meeting on Monday decided to repatriate the dead Nepalis at the earliest. “Necessary legal and diplomatic efforts are being made to bring home the dead,” Lamsal added. “The Israeli government has set certain protocols to take dead bodies home and we are following due process.”

The Cabinet also declared Tuesday as a ‘National Day of Mourning’ and decided to fly national flags at government offices and Nepal’s diplomatic offices abroad at half mast. The government also decided to provide Rs1 million as relief to each family of the deceased Nepalis.

A decision was also made to repatriate Nepalis who want to return home. For this, the Nepali embassy in Tel Aviv is collecting people’s names online and sending their details to the foreign ministry.

“Over 200 Nepalis have already registered their names to return home,” the embassy said in a statement.

Lamsal said that the ministry has also instructed the Nepali embassy to arrange temporary shelter for Nepalis willing to come home as their number could rise.

According to the foreign ministry, a total of 265 Nepali students from different Nepali universities had reached Israel under the Israeli government’s ‘Learn and Earn’ programme.

Seventeen students from the Sudur Paschim University became victims of Hamas attacks as they were studying in areas closer to the Gaza strip, according to the ministry.

Likewise, as many as 4,500 Nepalis are working as caregivers in Israel, the ministry said.

According to the Cabinet decision, the government would arrange chartered flights by Nepal Airlines and Himalayan Airlines to bring Nepalis home.

But Lamsal said Nepal should first get landing permission for the flights from Israeli authorities. “We are also seeking support from other friendly countries to bring the Nepalis back,” she said.

Israeli ambassador to Nepal Hanan Goder said that the airport in Israel was open for international flights. “[Tel Aviv] Airport is functioning normally,” he said. “Some flights are delayed but there are no issues beyond that. Whoever wants to fly can go back to Nepal whenever they want.”

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