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Dozens of Indian workers depart for Israel to take up construction jobs

NEW DELHI (AP) —

Dozens of Indian construction workers left for Israel this week to take up jobs there as the nearly six-month war between Israel and Hamas continues to rage in Gaza, officials said Thursday.

Israel is facing a labor shortage after barring tens of thousands of Palestinian workers following Hamas’ deadly attack on Oct. 7 attack on Israel that triggered the war. However, the Indian workers departing this week are going under an agreement signed by the two countries before the outbreak of hostilities, Indian External Affairs Ministry spokesman Randhir Jaiswal said.

``The first batch of people have gone to Israel. For us their safety is very important, and we have urged the Israeli authorities to do their best to take care of their safety and well-being,” Jaiswal told reporters Thursday.

Jaiswal said 18,000 Indians were currently employed in Israel, most of them caregivers.

During a visit to India last May by Israeli Foreign Minister Eli Cohen, the two countries signed an agreement to allow about 40,000 Indians to work in the fields of construction and nursing in Israel.

An initial batch of more than 60 construction workers departed Tuesday, and the Israeli ambassador to India, Naor Gilon, posted images of a send-off ceremony for the group on the X social media website.

In January, thousands of Indian laborers had flocked to government recruitment centers that were set up in the states of Uttar Pradesh and Haryana looking for candidates for jobs in Israel.

India has condemned the Hamas attack on Israel, but voted in favor of the U.N. General Assembly resolution last December that called on Israel to halt its fighting to allow for humanitarian assistance.

It also has reiterated its support for the two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian dispute.