The first batch of 64 construction workers from Haryana and Uttar Pradesh are leaving for Israel amid the war on Gaza, The Hindu reported.

In November, reports stated that the construction industry in Israel has asked the Indian government to allow companies to recruit one lakh Indian workers to replace the 90,000 Palestinians whose work permits have been cancelled since Israel’s war on Gaza started in October.

In December, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office had said that he had discussed “advancing the arrival of foreign workers from India to the State of Israel” with Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

India’s external affairs ministry had said at the time that India had not discussed with Israel the possibility of Indians workers replacing Palestinian labourers in the West Asian nation. However, the National Skills Development Corporation had issued a detailed document calling for workers soon after.

On Tuesday, National Skill Development Council officials, during a farewell event organised by the Israeli embassy for the Indian workers, said that they had received a demand for 10,000 construction workers from the Population and Immigration Authority, the Israeli employment agency, on November 15, The Hindu reported.

Subsequently, an employment drive was carried out in Haryana and Uttar Pradesh. As many as 9,727 workers were found to be qualified for the jobs and were offered contracts to work in Israel, the officials were quoted as saying.

The 64 workers are part of the nearly 10,000-strong workforce that will be flown to Israel, The Hindu reported. Batches of workers will fly out on chartered flights almost daily, with an estimated 1,500 Indians scheduled to leave in April, the newspaper quoted National Skill Development Council officials as saying.

Naor Gilon, the Israeli ambassador to India, said in a social media post that the farewell event was organised for the first batch of Indian workers going to Israel under the government-to-government agreement.

“This is an outcome of hard work of many, including @NSDCINDIA [National Skill Development Council],” Gilon said. “I am sure that the workers [will] become ‘ambassadors’ of the great P2P [people to people] relations between India and Israel.”

Over the past nearly six months, Israel has been carrying out air and ground strikes on the besieged Palestinian territory. The attacks have killed nearly 33,000 persons in Gaza and injured almost 75,000.

The war began after Hamas’ incursion into southern Israel on October 7 that killed 1,200 persons. The militant group had also taken over 200 people hostage. Some of the hostages were released in November as part of a brief ceasefire in exchange for Palestinians imprisoned by Israel and humanitarian aid.

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