Stranded Australians in Israel can anticipate the availability of repatriation flights commencing this week due to rising worries over the diminishing window for safe exit via Tel Aviv.
The initiation of these repatriation operations was confirmed by Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, who stated that the Qantas-operated flights will start evacuating on Friday. Albanese acknowledged the reality of many Australians grappling with delays and cancellations of commercial flights and offered reassurance.
Aiding those Australians lacking existing departure arrangements through commercial means, government-sanctioned exodus flights will duly commence from Friday, he stated.
The Prime Minister divulged that two Qantas flights destined for London from Israel are already in the pipeline with more to follow. He highlighted the government’s relentless strive to fashion contingencies in these trying times, alluding to the horrendous attacks by Hamas witnessed recently.
Eligibility for assisted departure mandates Australians to enroll with the government’s round-the-clock consular emergency service. On the prompting of minister Penny Wong, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade was instructed to begin formulating plans for such assisted-departure flights.
Transport Minister Catherine King reached out to the top honchos of Virgin and Qantas, urging them to collaborate with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade to devise possible repatriation flight alternatives, a viable option despite neither airline currently operating flights to Israel.
The violence has resulted in over a thousand lives lost in Hamas-initiated attacks and close to 900 dead in reciprocal strikes by Israel into Gaza in the ensuing days.
Prime Minister Albanese admitted the government’s uncertainty on the number of Australians directly affected by the conflict due to the significant Australian population in the region and lack of concrete data.
The government’s commitment to explore all escape routes for the safe return of Australians was ensured by Deputy Prime Minister Richard Marles. He expressed empathy towards those seeking assistance amidst increasing challenges due to cancelled international flights.
Drawing the spotlight was the pressure faced by the Prime Minister to acknowledge a National Security Committee meeting concerning the conflict’s aftermath.
Facing sharp criticism from Opposition leader Peter Dutton over the lack of sound rationale for not convening such a meeting, especially considering the recent anti-Semitic actions at a pro-Palestine rally in Sydney, Albanese strongly refuted the opposition’s reproach.
Reflecting the seriousness of the situation, Home Affairs Minister Clare O’Neil disclosed the activation of the national coordination mechanism, a response strategy utilized similarly during natural disasters as well as the notable Optus data breach last year. The measure’s invocation for the current event marks a precedent, she indicated.
Heart-wrenchingly, the conflict claimed an Australian victim in the form of 66-year-old Galit Carbone, who tragically lost her life outside her home in a kibbutz, a mere 5km from the Gaza Strip.