Israelis living overseas fly home to support fight against Hamas

Citizens respond to army's mobilisation of 360,000 reservists as Israel-Gaza war rages on

Young Israelis queue to board a flight to Tel Aviv at the Jorge Chavez International Airport in Lima, Peru, after Israel drafted more than military 300,000 reservists. EPA
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Israelis living abroad are flying to their home country from across the world to join the Israel-Gaza conflict following Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's declaration of war on Hamas.

Israel has called up 360,000 reservists – one of the biggest mobilisations in the past 50 years — since the escalation of the conflict following Hamas’s deadly assault at the weekend.

But the suspension of flights to Israel by many airlines has left thousands of Israeli reservists stranded around the world, waiting to return home. In East Asian nations, there are an estimated 800 to 1,000 soldiers and medical professionals trying to get back to Israel, according to volunteer organisations.

Israel's air force on Tuesday said it had sent flights to Europe to bring back hundreds of Israelis to serve as military reservists.

In Dubai, more than 220 Israeli citizens trained soldiers and medics are awaiting flights to Ben Gurion airport after arriving in the emirate in the past three days, said Israeli Consul General Liron Zaslansky.

“As many international carriers have suspended operations to Tel Aviv, we are making arrangements to buy available seats on flights to get them home,” she said.

Ms Zaslansky said a chartered flight was being arranged on Thursday to carry more than 180 citizens to Israel.

“The consulate is co-ordinating efforts with an organisation named La'Aretz, meaning “To our land”, which is fundraising to purchase tickets for reservists and medics to fly home,” she said.

Ms Zaslansky said most of those who were transitting through Dubai were young men and women who had been living in countries including Nepal, Thailand, Bhutan and India after their military service.

“Some were families holidaying overseas,” the diplomat added.

Yedidya and his wife Ellie Shalman, both aged 26, were among the holidaymakers who arrived in Dubai for an onward flight.

“We were in the midst of our honeymoon in Bangkok when the war started. We immediately cancelled our plan and took the first flight to Tel Aviv,” Yedidya, who did not want to give his second name, told The National.

“This is the worst crisis Israel is going through. We want to do our best to defend our country,” he said.

Another reservist, Alon, 30, told The National that he flew from Canada to “fight evil”.

“My country needs me. We are in this together,” said Alon, who served in the army for three years before relocating to Canada a year and a half ago.

“My friend Benji Trakeniski was murdered on Saturday while fighting off Hamas and trying to save civilians in the southern border. He is a real hero,” he said.

Travel has been challenging for many, with major airlines suspending flights to and from Israel.

The US State Department issued travel advisories for the region. Some reservists in the US, home to more than 140,000 people born in Israel, were trying to get on charter flights, AP reported.

Updated: October 11, 2023, 4:40 PM