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2 RAAF flights evacuate Australians from Israel

written by Adam Thorn | October 16, 2023

Ben Gurion Airport. (Chris Hoare, WikiCommons)

Two RAAF flights and one commercial service evacuated Australians from Israel yesterday following Qantas cancelling its own repatriation flights.

Foreign Affairs Minister Penny Wong said 255 people boarded the flights, though little detail has been given as to the aircraft or airlines involved.

She added the government was also looking to arrange a further flight today but warned that it “may be our last flight for the foreseeable future”.

“I’ve been saying for some days … that if people wish to leave, that they should take the first available option – they should not wait for another option.”

She added efforts are being made to organise flights out of Gaza, but it was a “very distressing situation”.


“We continue to do a lot of engagement with the United States, with Israel [and] with Egypt to try and assure passage for Australians out of Gaza,” she said.

“Obviously, the security situation on the ground there is extremely difficult, and so far we have not been able to do that.”

Home Affairs Minister Clare O’Neil added the vast majority of those who boarded the Tel Aviv flights were Australian citizens or their families.

“We still have a number of people who are in Israel who would like to leave, and we are working as a first priority as a government on making sure that we can assist people to leave Israel wherever possible,” she said.

“What I would say is that this is a very challenging situation, which is growing worse by the day. If you get the opportunity to leave, you need to take that opportunity. Don’t wait for another chance. If you get the chance to leave, leave immediately.”

The surprising news came a day after two planned charter flights out of Tel Aviv were cancelled over the weekend, including a second Qantas 787 service scheduled for Sunday.

One earlier flight on Friday was able to transfer stranded citizens to London, with an A380 flight taking passengers to Sydney still scheduled to go ahead.

The Qantas 787-9 that conducted Friday’s flight, VH-ZNN, has now returned home, and more than 800 Australians have made it out of Israel since the onset of the war a week ago.

Qantas initially said more than 900 crew volunteered to operate its two planned flights, exceeding the 70 required.

Australian Aviation reported in July how Qantas took delivery of its final Dreamliner, named ‘Snowy River’. The delivery was the last of a batch of three that had been delayed by two years.

It meant the Flying Kangaroo now has a fleet of 14 of the aircraft type, following the recent arrivals of VH-ZNM, named ‘Mateship’ and VH-ZNL, ‘Billabong’.

The planes are necessary for Qantas to increase capacity and launch new routes. In particular, the airline is currently in talks with Air France to develop a direct route from Perth to France, as well as several other additional European locations.

Neither Qantas nor Virgin offers direct flights to Israel under normal circumstances, though Qantas codeshare partners, including Emirates and El Al, and Virgin partners, including Etihad, fly to Tel Aviv.

Australians in Israel or the Occupied Palestinian Territories who want to leave and don’t already have plans to depart should register via DFAT’s Crisis Portal or by calling the 24-hour Consular Emergency Centre on +61 2 6261 3305 (from overseas) or 1300 555 135 (from within Australia).

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