12 April, 2024
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Hundreds of Australians ready to leave Israel for home


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Hundreds of Australian citizens are preparing to get on government-sponsored repatriation flights out of Israel, with two planes due to depart Tel Aviv for London in the next 24 hours.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese says 1600 people have registered in Israel, and a small number in Gaza or the West Bank, for repatriation and an “extraordinary logistical exercise” is underway.

The government has organised two Qantas flights which are due to depart Ben Gurion International Airport on Friday for London. A third flight has also been chartered.

From there, the government will be looking at what assistance can be provided to get people back to Australia, the Mr Albanese flagging Qantas was exploring the option of adding flights home via Singapore.

“The first flight from Qantas will leave to London, it will carry 220 passengers … We’re doing all that we can, this is an extraordinary logistical exercise while a war is going on,” he told Nine’s Today Show on Friday.

“We’re doing whatever we can in these circumstances to assist and I’m very grateful to Qantas … they are moving very quickly.”

Qantas put a call out to its flight crews to man the planes and received “many more times the number of people who are needed”, Mr Albanese said.

“Once again, Australians at the darkest of times showing the strength of their character,” he told Seven’s Sunrise program.

Mr Albanese also confirmed that Virgin and Qatar Airways had offered to help Australians trying to leave.

“We’re willing to accept everyone’s offer,” he said.

There are an estimated 10,000 Australians citizens in Israel, including dual citizens and tourists, although the government it looked like many want to stay.

The repatriation mission comes after the Islamist group Hamas attacked the country’s south from Gaza on Saturday, killing more than 1000 people and taking hostages.

In retaliation, the Israel Defence Force launched a counter offensive and bombed militant targets in Gaza, and is now preparing for a ground war to “destroy” Hamas.

The Israeli death toll has risen to more than 1300. Most were civilians gunned down in their homes, on the streets and at a dance party.

Israel says 97 Israeli and foreign hostages were taken back to Gaza.

Gaza authorities say more than 1400 Palestinians have been killed and more than 6000 have been wounded in the retaliatory strikes.

Among those killed in Israel was Australian grandmother Galit Carbone, 66, who died at the hands of the Hamas militants who attacked her village near the Gaza border.

Australian Security Intelligence Organisation director-general Mike Burgess is concerned about pro-Palestine rallies set to go ahead in Australian cities on Friday and over the weekend.

 ASIO chief Mike Burgess said his agency is well positioned to detect any threats to security. Image by Mick Tsikas/AAP PHOTOS 

“I remain concerned about the potential for opportunistic violence with little or no warning,” he said in a statement on Thursday.

Mr Burgess also warned language around the conflict should be eased due to the fears of community tensions, saying “words matter”.

Opposition Leader Peter Dutton denied the statement was directed at his calls for non-Australian citizens who preach anti-Semitic hate speech at pro-Palestinian rallies to be deported.

“If they’re on a visa, they should have their visa cancelled, there’s nothing controversial in that statement, and I would be quite bewildered and amazed if the prime minister wasn’t of the same view,” he told Sky News.

Australia’s national terrorism threat level remains at “possible”.

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