UK sets up first repatriation flights for citizens trying to flee Israel

France and Germany also arrange evacuation flights

Argentine citizens boarding a C-130 Hercules aircraft at Ben Gurion International Airport in Tel Aviv. AFP
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The first UK repatriation flight has taken off from Israel as France and Germany also schedule evacuations.

Thousands of foreigners are stuck in Israel and across the occupied Palestinian territories, where the Israeli military and Hamas are locked in the worst violence in years.

Across Europe, North America and Asia, flights are being sent to Israel for what could become the biggest international evacuation since the war in Ukraine.

The first UK flight left Ben Gurion Airport in Tel Aviv on Thursday. The UK government said further flights are planned for the coming days, subject to security conditions. A British Rapid Deployment Team is in Israel to assist citizens there.

Vulnerable British citizens will be prioritised for the first flights, the Foreign Office said. It added that since the Hamas attack in Israel, British officials have been working to support citizens in Israel and Gaza.

Germany said it was working with Lufthansa to organise “several special flights” on Thursday and Friday to repatriate German citizens.

“Around 4,500 German citizens” have registered on a list seeking help to return, a foreign ministry source said.

About 180 Greek nationals have been evacuated from Israel so far.

The US State Department is arranging charter flights to assist its citizens and their immediate family members who have been unable to book commercial transport out of Israel.

From there, people will be able to make their own onward travel arrangements to the destination of their choice.

French Foreign Minister Catherine Colonna has announced a special Air France flight from Tel Aviv on Thursday to help repatriate any French nationals who have been unable to leave.

The Austrian government said it repatriated 98 people late on Wednesday. The group comprised 83 Austrians and 15 others, including Dutch, German, Hungarian, Israeli, Spanish and United States citizens.

The Danish government has organised an evacuation of its citizens in the “coming days”. Around 1,200 Danish nationals are in Israel and 90 in Palestinian territories.

Finland has vowed to evacuate its citizens from affected regions.

Norway organised a flight on Wednesday evening for its citizens stuck in Israel and Palestinian territories. There are around 500 Norwegian nationals in the region.

Portugal repatriated 152 of its nationals on Wednesday morning, as well as 14 other Europeans, in a Portuguese military aircraft. A flight on Thursday took another 22 people, eight Portuguese and 14 other people, out of Israel

The Icelandic government has repatriated 126 of its nationals, as well as five from the Faroe Islands, four Norwegians and 12 Germans.

Tourists in Israel struggle to return home

Tourists in Israel struggle to return home

Spain organised a flight from Tel Aviv overnight on Tuesday-Wednesday with 209 people on board, 185 of them Spaniards and others from European nations and Latin America.

A second flight also arrived back carrying 220 passengers, including 149 Spanish nationals.

A flight evacuating Swedish nationals is due to leave Tel Aviv Thursday evening.

There are about 3,000 Swedes in Israel and 800 in the Palestinian territories.

Swiss International Air Lines have repatriated 435 Swiss nationals.

Two more flights are scheduled for Thursday and Friday.

Around 28,000 Swiss citizens and their families are officially registered as living in Israel and the Palestinian territories.

Two military planes carrying 287 Mexicans repatriated from Israel and the Palestinian territories arrived in Mexico on Wednesday, the country's Foreign Minister said.

The government said that about 1,000 people had requested help to return to Mexico. It was unclear if it was organising more flights.

According to official data, about 5,000 Mexicans reside in Israel, two in the Gaza Strip and 35 in the West Bank.

Canada on Wednesday sent two army aircraft to cope with a “surge in demand” to fly about 700 Canadians home “in the coming days”, said Foreign Minister Melanie Joly.

More than 4,200 Canadian citizens are registered with Ottawa's consular services in Israel and another 470 in the Palestinian territories.

Argentina, the Latin American country with the largest Jewish population, on Tuesday started evacuating more than 1,200 of its citizens from Israel.

Three air force flights a day will take the 1,246 Argentines who have asked to be evacuated to the Italian capital, Rome, Defence Minister Jorge Taiana said. From there, state-owned airline Aerolineas Argentinas will fly them to Buenos Aires.

Brazil's government plans to mobilise at least six planes in a bid to rapidly repatriate any of its citizens who wish to leave Israel and the Palestinian territories.

A first flight, carrying 211 Brazilians, returned before dawn on Wednesday. A second is due back in Brazil on Thursday.

Nigeria has airlifted 310 of its citizens back home after they fled to Jordan from Israel, where they were on a Christian pilgrimage, the Lagos state government said.

A flight carrying 192 South Korean citizens took off from Tel Aviv and landed near Seoul early on Wednesday, the foreign ministry said.

Another 30 South Korean nationals will be evacuated later in the week on commercial flights, it said. A further 27, who were in Israel on a Christian pilgrimage, will go by road to neighbouring Jordan.

More than 5,000 Thai nationals are seeking to return home from Israel, where about 30,000 citizens of the south-east Asian nation work and live.

Updated: October 12, 2023, 6:57 PM