MANILA, January 7, 2003 (STAR) By Aurea Calica and Mayen Jaymalin  - Over a dozen Filipino workers were among the 100 people wounded in the worst Palestinian suicide bombings in Israel since August last year but most suffered minor injuries, officials reported yesterday.

Five of the Filipino victims were hospitalized, two of them in critical condition, Labor Secretary Patricia Sto. Tomas said.

At least 23 people and the two bombers were killed in the second-worst attack in the current Palestinian uprising.

The Israeli government has pledged to pay all hospital expenses of those wounded in the attacks Sunday in Tel Aviv that were blamed on Palestinian extremists.

"Embassy officials have checked on their condition and two of them were being operated on. Hopefully, their condition will be stable very soon," Ambassador to Israel Belen Anota told ABS-CBN television.

Most of the victims were sent home after receiving medical treatment, Sto. Tomas said, citing a report to the department by Philippine labor attachť Jeffrey Cortazar.

Two of the victims are undergoing treatment at Belinson Hospital, the other two at Tel Hashomer Hospital, both in Israelís capital Tel Aviv. Labor officials declined to identify the four until their families have been notified.

An estimated 35,000 Filipinos work in Israel, most as caregivers who stay most of the time in the relative safety of their employersí homes, Sto. Tomas said.

Anota said there was no immediate need for the workers to be repatriated despite the hostilities.

Meanwhile, Israelís security cabinet early Monday gave the green light to army proposals for retaliation after the double suicide bombing, which killed 23 people plus the two bombers.

The mini-cabinet decided to "intensify the anti-terrorist fight" including strikes against Palestinian activists, military radio said.

In the first response to Sundayís attacks, Israeli helicopters fired missiles at metal workshops in the Gaza Strip.

The blasts occurred in rapid succession during rush hour Sunday on two parallel streets in the poor Neve Shaanan district.

Seventeen bodies, including those of the bombers, were recovered at the scene, police said. Another eight people died in hospital.

Police said 68 wounded people were still in hospital yesterday, two in critical condition and five serious.

Around half of the victims are thought to have been among the migrant workers who live in the district, many working illegally.

The two bombers, carrying 15 kilos of explosives each according to police, were blasted apart.

However, foreign workers hurt in the suicide bombing faced a painful dilemma: suffer with their injuries, or go to a hospital for treatment, where they feared authorities might find they have no work visas and deport them.

Of the dozens who suffered from less serious wounds, some held back. Others, uninjured, feared to check on their friends, lest police round them up and send them home ó a worry to add to natural concern for their safety after the second suicide bombing in their neighborhood in six months.

Reacting to their fears, Israel has offered temporary visas and state aid to illegal and other immigrants caught in the attacks. Labor minister Shlomo Benizri said the government would pay for the journey and accommodations of families of victims who wished to come to Israel.

Interior Minister Eli Yishai told illegal foreign workers hurt in the attacks not to be afraid to come for treatment in Israeli hospitals.

He pledged to give residence visas valid for several months "to all those who are victims, physically or mentally, of the double attack, as well as their relatives who live in Israel or who come from abroad to help them."

On Channel Two TV, an announcer paused in the nightly Hebrew-language newscast to appeal to the workers in English. "If you or any of your loved ones are hurt in this bomb blast, please donít be afraid to go to one of the nearest Israeli hospitals in Tel Aviv, even if you are working illegally in Israel," she said. "Donít worry, no one will arrest you, no one will try to harm you. Please, just go to the hospital and get treatment."

Israel Radio also broadcast similar appeals in several languages.

Roundups are no mere theory. Israelís government has targeted illegal workers, sending inspectors to work sites, arresting illegals on the spot and sending them to detention centers to await deportation.

In response to the bomb attacks, Israel decided Monday to close three Palestinian universities, intensify raids against suspected militants and bar Palestinian officials from holding key meetings in the West Bank and abroad.

A splinter group of the Al Aqsa Martyrsí Brigade, a militia linked to Palestinian leader Yasser Arafatís Fatah movement, claimed responsibility.

In an overnight meeting, Israelís security cabinet decided to bar Palestinian officials from attending a meeting in London this month where they were to discuss reforms demanded by the United States as a first step toward the establishment of an independent state, said Raanan Gissin, an aide to Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.

***4 Filipinos caught in Tel Aviv blast all okay: envoy 01/07 12:09:47 PM (NEWSFLASH)

All the four overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) hurt in the recent Israeli suicide bombing are okay.

This was the reassurance given by Philippine ambassador to Israel Belen Anota to DzMM radio station in the aftermath of the Tel Aviv suicide bombing that killed 23 people.

Anota said of the four OFWs injured in the twin blasts, Rolita Miranda has been released from the hospital today while Geronimo Burillo is scheduled to be released tomorrow.

Anota added that Maria Martin's surgery for her left eye went well while the fourth Filipino-- whose identity Anota refused to give out as per the request of the family-- was also conscious already.

Furthermore, the RP envoy warned Filipinos in Israel or those planning to travel there to exercise caution and "take all the necessary precautions."

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