As there is expected to be “quite large demand” to escape a conflict that will have repercussions for “months or years to come,” the government of Australia is making preparations to send a third repatriation flight from Israel.
As the government faces concerns about why Qantas did the initial flights when some other nations deployed their military because commercial carriers will not fly, the minister of home affairs, Clare O’Neil, has emphasized that “safety and security of Australians” is the primary priority. This comes as the government is facing questions about why Qantas performed the initial flights.
According to Penny Wong, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, the decision was made based on “availability” and booking flights “as quickly as we could”.
Anthony Albanese made the announcement on Wednesday that the initial two flights from the Ben Gurion airport in Tel Aviv to the London Heathrow airport would depart on Friday and Sunday.
Wong told reporters in Adelaide that the government was “seeking to arrange a further flight, likely to be early next week.” This statement was made after Wong visited Adelaide. She strongly suggested that any Australians who are interested in assisted departure register with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade as soon as possible.
Albanese made the erroneous statement that the third flight would “be offered by Qantas” when he confirmed it on Thursday afternoon. The government has subsequently clarified that the flight will be a private chartered flight.
We will, of course, keep an eye on security and make sure that we are keeping a close watch on what is both a highly dangerous situation and a highly volatile place.
Tomorrow is the day that the first flight is planned to take off and head to London. And we believe it is very vital that Australian people who live abroad have the opportunity to return to Australia if they so desire.
Earlier, O’Neil stated that the conflict was “absolutely horrible and unfortunately Australians are going to hear a lot more of this.” He made this statement when speaking to the ABC.
This unprecedented act of violence and terrorism that took place in Israel is something that is going to have implications, most likely for the upcoming months and years.
O’Neil condemned what he called “the killing of innocent men, women, and children” and pointed out that the “perpetrators,” Hamas, are on the government’s list of organizations designated as terrorist groups in Australia.
“[Hamas] have also committed a crime against the Palestinian people because many innocent people will die on the opposite side of this fight, and all of this bloodshed is only going to breed more violence in the future. “No one will emerge victorious from this circumstance,” she stated.
When asked how many Australians are likely to require aid to leave Israel, O’Neil mentioned that there are 10,000 Australians who hold dual citizenship and live in Israel, and that approximately 45,000 Australians come to Israel annually.
She stated that it was feasible that there will be a rather significant demand for these flights over the course of time.
O’Neil said that the operation of flights “needs to shift and change a little bit as the security situation changes” when asked why Qantas was operating Australia’s repatriation flights while Canada sent its troops and KLM cancelled its offer to the Netherlands citing security worries. O’Neil was asked why Qantas was operating Australia’s repatriation flights while KLM revoked its offer to the Netherlands claiming security concerns.
Wong stated that “simply the case of what availability could be arranged faster” was the reason behind the choice.
“Obviously, there are times when we look to the RAAF for assistance, but in terms of making sure we can get flights as quickly as possible, we looked at all of our options, including commercial options, and Qantas was able to help us out.”
“We will always work with our partners who share the same values to ensure that there are suitable security arrangements. Because this is such a challenging circumstance, we have prioritized getting assisted departures up and running as quickly as we possibly can.
Wong stated that Qantas had provided the travel from Tel Aviv to London to passengers “free of charge,” despite the fact that the government was footing the bill for the flights.
On Wednesday, Qantas stated that the flights between Tel Aviv and London are “expected” to be on a Boeing 787 Dreamliner, “subject to ongoing safety and security assessments, and regulatory approvals in several countries.”
The opposition, which is led by Peter Dutton, has criticized the Australian government’s handling of the crisis, notably with regard to Wong’s call for “restraint” in the preservation of civilian life. This is the case despite the fact that the Australian government endorses the right of Israel to defend itself and condemns demonstrations at which antisemitic shouts were shouted.
Albanese said on Wednesday that many people would be fearful of “a rise in antisemitism here at home” and assured the community that his government was committed to keeping them secure despite escalating inter-community tensions.