The final two repatriation flights for Australians flew from Tel Aviv to Dubai overnight with around 194 people on board, including more than 90 nationals from Pacific nations. No more flights are planned in the immediate future to get Australians and their families out of Israel amid speculation the airspace is about to be closed ahead of an anticipated massive Israel ground offensive in Gaza.
Deputy Prime Minister and Defence Minister Richard Marles said Australia has provided flights to about 700 people. “This right now is as much as we are planning to do, so we don’t have any more planned flights. We do believe these flights meet the immediate demand. We will keep defence assets and RAAF planes in the region as a contingency as things develop in case there is a greater need. But as of now, there are no more planned flights,” he added.
Mr. Marles conceded the bigger challenge is to get Australians out of Gaza. More than 45 Australians who are trapped in the enclave have reached out to the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) for assistance. “Clearly people who are in Gaza right now are in a very, very difficult situation. We are encouraging them to move south within Gaza, to heed the call of Israel in that respect,” Mr. Marles explained.
Foreign Minister Senator Penny Wong said: “DFAT is in direct contact with Australian families seeking to leave Gaza, to provide updated advice on options to leave. We support the work of the US, Egypt and others to open the Rafah crossing between Gaza and Egypt for humanitarian purposes.”
Despite US Secretary of State Antony Blinken announcing that the Rafah crossing would open, no foreign nationals have been let out and no humanitarian supplies have been let in. Truckloads of aid idled at the border as residents and humanitarian groups pleaded for water, food and fuel for dying generators, saying Gaza was near “total collapse.”
Hospitals are reported to be on the verge of losing electricity, threatening the lives of thousands of patients, as Israel maintained airstrikes across the Palestinian territory and Hamas militants kept up a barrage of rocket attacks on southern Israel while tensions mounted near the Israel-Lebanon border.