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Thailand urges Israel to relocate workers after rocket strike

July 24, 2014 9:57 P.M. (Updated: July 25, 2014 11:30 P.M.)
BANGKOK (AFP) -- Thailand on Thursday urged Israel to relocate 4,000 Thai nationals working near the battle-scarred Gaza strip after one of its citizens was killed.

Israeli police said a farm laborer, Narakorn Kittiyongkul, died on Wednesday when a projectile fired from Gaza struck the greenhouse where he was working in the southern part of the country.

He joined a soaring death toll from 17 days of conflict which has claimed more than 700 Palestinians so far and prompted frantic diplomatic efforts to forge a truce led by the US and United Nations.

The Thai Foreign Ministry said its embassy in Tel Aviv had advised its citizens to stop working in the area near Gaza.

"The Thai Embassy has contacted the Israeli Foreign Ministry and employers to ask them to relocate 4,000 Thai workers in agriculture estates near the Gaza strip immediately and unconditionally to safe areas 10 to 20 kilometers (6-12 miles) away," ministry spokesman Sek Wannamethee told reporters in Bangkok.

"But we will not evacuate our workers from Israel yet," he added.

Thousands of overseas workers, many from Southeast Asia, work on Israeli farms and in factories.

Israeli air strikes and military incursions into Gaza have battered the densely populated enclave, leaving more than 700 dead.

Gaza-based rights groups say at least 80 percent of the victims are civilians, including women and children.

Israel says over 30 of its soldiers have died since it began ground operations on July 17.

Israel says it is targeting the Islamist Hamas movement which has fired hundreds of rockets into Israel over recent months. The group launched the attacks in response to a major Israeli offensive across the West Bank that began in June and left 10 Palestinians dead, more than 130 injured, and more than 1,000 in prison.

US Secretary of State John Kerry and UN chief Ban Ki-moon held talks in Jerusalem on Wednesday in a bid to secure a ceasefire, but so far Hamas has rejected any truce without the lifting of Israel's eight-year blockade on Gaza.

Ma'an staff contributed to this report.
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