ASEAN defense ministers call for immediate Gaza truce in Israel-Hamas conflict

Defense chiefs from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations have called for an immediate truce in Gaza.

The deteriorating situation in the Middle East is an urgent issue for the ministers. More than 20 people from Thailand, an ASEAN member, have been taken hostage by Hamas militants since they launched a surprise attack on Israel on October 7.

The ASEAN defense ministers issued a chairman's statement on Thursday after their meeting in Indonesia.

The statement says they "expressed profound dismay at the reported attacks and loss of innocent civilian lives in the conflict, along with the destruction of civilian infrastructure."

The document also "called for an immediate, durable and sustained humanitarian truce leading to a cessation of hostilities."

The statement says "the protection of all civilians, including ASEAN nationals, must be prioritized in times of conflict, and all hostages must be released immediately and unconditionally."

Defense chiefs from Indonesia and Malaysia, countries in which a majority of the population are Muslims, reportedly voiced strong concern over the humanitarian situation in Gaza.

Malaysia's defense minister said the meeting participants generally agreed on the need to prevent further deaths of women and children in the strip.