Nepal’s Embassy in Israel has confirmed that 10 Nepali students based at a kibbutz in southern Israel near the Gaza border were killed in the attack by Hamas militants on Saturday October 7, 2023. The incident highlights once more the dangers Nepalis face as the diaspora spreads to war zones around the world.
The ten were among 17 students, all from western Nepal, who were in Israel under the Israeli government’s ‘learn and earn’ program and assigned to the Kibbutz Alumim, which was was attacked by Hamas militants from Gaza.
The Embassy has released the names of the ten, which were widely circulated on social media, with one student still listed as missing. Four others were injured, and two reported to be safe. Earlier reports that Nepalis were among the hostages Hamas took back with them into Gaza have not been confirmed.
On Sunday, October 8, 2023, Nepal’s Foreign Minister Narayan Prakash Saud had met with the Israeli Ambassador in Kathmandu, Hanan Godar, before it became clear that there were Nepalis among the fatalities at the farm.
There are currently 265 agriculture students from various parts of rural Nepal in Israel to gain experience in farming while earning money working on kibbutzes. There are another 5,000 Nepali caregivers serving as nurses for the elderly in Israel.
“Most Nepali students here are frightened and want the Nepal government to fly them home,” Ramesh Joshi, a Nepali worker who is helping with the rescue, told Nepali Times by phone from Israel.
“The fighting was so intense even the ambulance and army couldn’t get to southern Israel. We all had to stay in our bunkers for safety,” added Joshi, who is with the Non-Resident Nepalese Association in Israel.
Nepalis involved in the relief operations said some of the Nepalis who were injured had been calling for help, but even the Israeli Army could not reach them because of the fighting.
Nepali agriculture student Louish Rijal, who spoke to Nepali Times from a bunker somewhere in southern Israel on Sunday evening, said the Nepalis with him were very scared and wanted to be rescued.
“We hear about our friends in other farms dying or injured, and we do not understand why the embassy cannot rescue us. Who is our guardian, the school here, the university in Nepal, our employer, or the government? We are going to die of fear if we keep hiding here.”
This is not the first time that non-combatant Nepalis have been killed in war zones overseas. Twelve Nepalese hostages working in an American facility in Iraq were executed after capture in 2004 by the Ansar al-Sunna group; the video of the killings aired on television sparked riots in Kathmandu.
13 Nepali security guards who were working for a subcontractor recruitment company were killed in a Taliban attack on the Canadian Embassy in Kabul in 2016. The Canadian government was sued and ultimately paid compensation.
“We are still gathering information about exact casualties and relief, from Israel about Nepalis, and we will be sharing that along with the government's response on Monday,” said Sewa Lamsal at the Foreign Ministry in Kathmandu.
The Ministry released a statement on Sunday that condemned the Hamas attack, without naming the Palestinian militant group. It began: “The Government of Nepal strongly condemns the terrorist attack on Israel today … at this critical hour we convey our solidarity with the government of Israel.”
Following is the translation of an audio message from a Nepali student trapped at the Kibbutz Alumim calling for help that is circulating on social media:
A total of 49 of us from Sudur Paschim University were here as part of the learn and earn 11 months internship program. We were happy, we had dreams. But just two days before we were to receive our first paycheck, the Palestinians attacked. Our farm, in particular, wasn’t affected but when we made videos and shared them with the media, we started getting calls from other Nepali students who were shot and were crying for help. We couldn’t do anything. Even our group of 11 has been stuck here in a dark bunker since 7AM yesterday. We don’t have food, just water. But it’s cold in here and we are starting to get sick. We reached out to the embassy and officials but they only have false assurances for us. But is that enough to save our lives? We request all the Nepalis, foreign ministry and leaders of all political parties to rescue us at the earliest. Do not think of us students but rather as your sons and daughters.