The first charter flight to facilitate the return of Indian citizens stranded in Israel left on Thursday night from Ben Gurion airport. Some 230 Indians came in the flight on a “first come first served” basis.
This flight was arranged to facilitate the return of those who were unable to do so because Air India had immediately suspended its flight on the day fighting began on October 7, and its commercial operation remains suspended till now.
The government is bearing the flight cost of those who returned. There was a long queue of Indians, including students, at the airport to board the special flight operated under ‘Operation Ajay’ from Tel Aviv.
“We are thankful to India… Most of the students were a little bit panicked. Suddenly we saw some notification and the links for every Indian citizen through the embassy of India which boosted our morale. We felt like the embassy of India is connected with us which was a kind of relief to us. And then we got all the arrangements,” Shubham Kumar, a student in Israel, told news agency PTI.
Israel has vowed an unprecedented offensive against the Hamas group in Gaza Strip after its fighters broke through the border fence and stormed into the country’s south through air, land and sea on October 7.
On the sixth day, the Israeli military said more than 1,300 people, including 222 soldiers, were killed in Israel, a staggering toll unseen since the 1973 war with Egypt and Syria that lasted weeks.
In Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip, at least 1,417 people, including women and children, have been killed, according to authorities there.
The Indian embassy had emailed the first lot of registered Indian citizens for the special flight, the mission posted on X. “Messages to other registered people will follow for subsequent flights,” it said.