Japan firms continue to evacuate staff in Israel amid Hamas conflict

A growing number of Japanese firms have ordered their employees based in Israel to return home over concern for their safety amid the country's ongoing conflict with the Palestinian militant group Hamas.

A total of 92 Japanese companies were operating in Israel as of September, with 39 of them based in Tel Aviv, according to research firm Teikoku Databank Ltd. Several of these companies have expressed uncertainty about when they can resume local operations and they worry the fighting could further escalate.

Trading houses Mitsui & Co. and Toyota Tsusho Corp. said they have evacuated Japanese staff and their families in the region, with the former directing all its employees not to travel to Israel.

Fujitsu Ltd., which has a research center in Tel Aviv for data security and artificial intelligence, has suspended sending a handful of employees back to the country after they returned to Japan just as large-scale fighting broke out.

Meanwhile, Sakata Seed Corp. last week quickly evacuated two staff posted in Israel via a commercial flight. The company established a branch office in Rehovot in June to gather information on cutting-edge horticultural technology.

"The impact on our business partners is significant, and some companies have already ceased operations in the region," said an employee of Moriroku Chemicals Co., which has also brought home its personnel based in Israel.

While Japanese staff have been safely evacuated, some firms have expressed concern for local employees, including fears that they may be taken hostage and held for ransom.

Israel and Hamas have been at war since the Islamist militant group mounted a surprise attack from the Gaza Strip into southern Israel on Oct. 7, triggering Israeli retaliation. The incursion by Hamas and the Israeli response together have killed thousands of people, including many civilians.

© Kyodo News