Jerusalem: The first charter flight to facilitate the return of Indian citizens stranded in Israel is set to depart from Ben Gurion Airport on Thursday evening. This operation comes amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinian militant group Hamas. Approximately 230 Indians residing in Israel will have the opportunity to return to India on a “first come, first serve” basis on the 9 PM flight this Thursday.
The need for this special flight arose because Air India had suspended its operations on the day the conflict began, on October 7, and continues to keep its commercial operations suspended. The Indian government is covering the cost of the return flights, so those returning will not have to pay any fare.
The conflict in Israel intensified after fighters from the Palestinian militant group Hamas breached the border fence and entered the southern regions of Israel by air, land, and sea on October 7. As of the sixth day of the conflict, over 1,200 individuals, including 189 soldiers, have lost their lives in Israel. This marks a significant toll not seen since the 1973 war with Egypt and Syria.
Hamas has been in control of Gaza since 2007. The Indian embassy has begun the process of notifying registered Indian citizens for the special flight, with more messages to follow for subsequent flights.
India’s Minister of External Affairs, S. Jaishankar, announced the launch of ‘Operation Ajay’ to facilitate the return of Indian citizens from Israel, emphasizing the government’s commitment to the safety and well-being of its nationals abroad.
Ben Gurion International Airport, Israel’s main international airport, is where these evacuation operations are taking place. Despite Israel’s ongoing offensive on Gaza, there has been a noticeable lull in rocket attacks from Gaza.
Hamas might be conserving its rocket stockpile for a potential ground incursion. The Indian embassy in Israel continues to closely monitor the situation, advising its citizens to stay calm, vigilant, and follow security advisories.
In a recorded message, India’s Ambassador to Israel, Sanjeev Singla, reassured Indian citizens, thanking them for their messages of appreciation. The embassy has been providing support to an injured caregiver from Kerala, injured in rocket shelling in Ashdod, and is maintaining constant contact with her and her family.
The Indian community in Israel is also aiding her recovery. The Indian embassy has established a 24-hour helpline for Indian citizens in Israel and encourages them to register with the embassy.
With approximately 18,000 Indian nationals residing and working in Israel, these measures have had a calming effect on the Indian community, including students, caregivers, IT professionals, and diamond traders. The Indian representative office in Ramallah is in touch with the four Indians living in Gaza, though the situation on the ground limits their options. The Indian mission in Tel Aviv is actively exploring ways to assist all Indians affected by the conflict.