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[News Blog] Hamas attacks on Israel. European countries evacuate their fellow citizens (v7)

(B2) It was Poland which was the first to announce, on Sunday (October 8), the launch of the evacuation of its fellow citizens from Israel. Portugal, Hungary, Italy have started. The airlift accelerated during the week, with more rotations. In total, according to our information, more than 10.000 Europeans (EU) and families were repatriated during the week. Mainly tourists. But also residents in Israel.

(Photo: MOD Poland)
  • After the multiple terrorist attack carried out by the men of the Hamas movement against several towns and civilian homes in southern Israel, around Gaza, many tourists and businessmen remained stranded — many regular civilian airlines having interrupted their flight (1).
  • These operations were purely national, most often organized with military means, but also civilian means. If European citizens have been repatriated, it is a function of circumstances and consular coordination, not of a concerted operation.
  • If at the start of the week, the evacuation of Israeli nationals was the priority, the movement began to reverse itself at the end of the week. With the Israeli bombing of Gaza, the attention of several countries has focused on the difficulty of extracting their national or binational citizens from the Palestinian enclave.

Poland leaves first

« We are ready to quickly and efficiently ensure the return home of Polish tourists currently staying in Israel » justifies the Minister of Defense, Mariusz Błaszczak. The planes will be able, if necessary, to evacuate other European citizens and foreigners who would like to leave the country, specifies the Polish government.

Three planes mobilized then Casa

Warsaw initially mobilized three transport planes: two C130 Hercules planes and a Boeing 737 for this operation, called NEON. Two Polish planes landed at Ben Gurion Airport in Tel Aviv on Sunday (October 8). The third took off from Warsaw on Sunday evening with a military medical team on board. Casa planes took over, providing an air bridge between Tel Aviv in Israel and Chania in Crete from Monday (October 9), thus shortening the evacuation time. Around fifteen shuttles were organized. 1504 people were thus able to be repatriated, indicated the general command on Saturday (October 14), marking the end of the operation.

The Polish experience

Polish transport aviation and special forces have “ some experience in this type of operations » he specifies, citing the operation to evacuate Poles from Wuhan (China) during the Covid-19 epidemic in 2020, and in 2021 for the evacuation of Kabul.

An electoral issue too...

The upcoming elections (October 15) partly explain this speed of intervention. The terms of this intervention were, however, strongly criticized in Poland in the midst of a crisis within the army (read: [Decryption] Slingshot in the Polish army. Serial resignations at the general staff as the elections approach)

Other countries are following suit

Le Portugal mobilized a C-130 from its air force to “ carry out a mission to help the return of the Portuguese » from Israel, announced the Portuguese defense early in the evening on Sunday (October 8). This one shuttled between Tel Aviv and Larnaca (Cyprus). The relay was then provided by a flight chartered by the Portuguese State. This plane arrived in Lisbon on Wednesday morning with 152 Portuguese and Portuguese-Israelis on board. The mission ended on Thursday (October 12) with the return of the C-130 which landed at 7:30 a.m. at Figo Maduro airfield in Portugal, with eight Portuguese and 14 foreigners on board. In all, more than 200 people (nationals and Europeans) were thus repatriated. Four Portuguese people are missing, Foreign Minister João Gomes Cravinho said on Wednesday (October 12).

L'Italy has ensured several rotations of its military aircraft from Tel Aviv to Pratica di Mare starting Monday (October 9). Two landed on Tuesday (October 10) morning at Pratica di Mare, bringing back approximately 200 people, a third military plane landed in the afternoon. Two other flights operated by a private airline (Neos) at “ controlled prices » (NB: 350 euros) will be insured on Wednesday (October 11), indicates Farnesina. Many pilgrims were in the country, stranded by the cancellation of regular flights.

La Hungary on Monday (October 9) sent two air force planes to Tel Aviv which made two rotations between Monday and Tuesday. Then it chose (like Austria) Cyprus as an evacuation hub with a hybrid boat - plane evacuation mode.

215 people were repatriated on Monday evening (October 9) aboard two Air Force planes. A plane then returned to Tel Aviv to bring back another 110 people. In total, 325 people in this first rotation, including 46 children, and 15 nationals of other nationalities (Israeli, Swedish, German, British, Austrian and Portuguese). In addition, 65 Hungarians from Israel, including 18 children, were able to reach Cyprus by boat on Thursday (October 12) announcement Foreign Minister Peter Szijjártó. They will be repatriated by plane to Hungary.

La Bulgaria also very quickly sent an A319 government plane to Israel to repatriate its citizens. In total, three flights were carried out repatriating nearly 300 people. The last flight with 96 people landed in Sofia on the night of October 13-14. Flights will continue as long as possible and as long as necessary » specifies the ministry.

For its part, the Czech Republic took advantage of the trip Tuesday (October 10) of its Minister of Foreign Affairs Jan Lipavský to Israel - to express his support for his counterpart Eli Cohen - to bring back Czech citizens stranded in the country.

Very close to 80 people were repatriated. 34 were able to return to the ministerial plane on Tuesday evening. Another rotation carried out on Wednesday (October 11) during the night, made it possible to repatriate around forty Czech citizens to the Kbely military airport in Prague at 3:40 a.m.

Czech citizens evacuate from Tel Aviv aboard the ministerial A319 (Photo: MFA Czechia)

Most European countries launch their own evacuation operations

L'Austria announced on Tuesday (October 10) to send a C-130 plane to Cyprus. From there, a shuttle service to Israel will be set up to bring the Austrians back. He was due to take off from Linz on Wednesday (October 11) in the morning, announced the Bundesheer. On board the plane, army psychologists. (updated) But the operation has been postponed. The plane having broken down. Built in 1966 (57 years old!), it has been in service since 2003 in the Austrian army apologize Michel Bauer, the army spokesperson.

The Netherlands launched their operation on Tuesday (October 10), sending an A330 military transport aircraft from the multinational multi-role transport aircraft unit MRTT (stationed at the NATO-run Eindhoven Air Base), to “ repatriate people with a Dutch passport and wishing to leave Israel » as Defense Minister Kajsa Ollengren clarified.

199 people were able to be repatriated on Wednesday (October 11). A second rotation was organized immediately. The aircraft landed in Eindhoven around 1:30 a.m. on the night of Thursday to Friday (October 13) with more than 200 Dutch people on board and around twenty Europeans (including 17 Luxembourgers). precise the Ministry). Other flights are planned in the coming days, indicates the Dutch defense.

La Romania has chosen to favor private flights, organized in particular by the national company Tarom, at the request of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. 239 Romanian nationals were repatriated between Wednesday and Thursday, aboard four flights (Tarom, El Al and two private companies).

In total since the start of the conflict, 28 special flights, operated by Tarom and other private companies, have made it possible to repatriate around 2220 people who have been evacuated, precise the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Luminita Odobescu taking stock of the operation (18 flights and 1800 Romanian nationals had already been insured as of October 11). There are still 150 living in Gaza (350 Romanians are recorded in the Palestinian territory), Foreign Affairs spokesperson Radu Filip said on Wednesday. Aggerpress. 220 Ukrainian citizens were repatriated during the night from Saturday to Sunday (October 15).

L'Spain also triggered an evacuation operation on Tuesday (October 10). A first A330 aircraft from the Spanish Air Force landed early on Wednesday (October 11) at Torrejón de Ardoz air base in Madrid. Another plane made a second rotation repatriating the remaining Spanish nationals on Wednesday evening (October 11).

In total 429 people, including 334 Spaniards, citizens of the European Union and third countries residing in Spain were repatriated. Most were people temporarily in Israel, stranded when scheduled flights were canceled.

La France announced late Tuesday (October 10) that a special flight operated by Air France will be provided on Thursday (October 12) to allow “ compatriots who wish to do so, and have not been able to find available seats on the commercial flights still open in Tel Aviv, to return to the national territory » according to the press release from the Quai d'Orsay.

The first flight landed at Roissy-Charles de Gaulle airport on Thursday (October 12) evening, bringing 377 people. A second flight landed on Friday evening (October 13), with more than 300 passengers on board. In all, eleven flights were set up between October 12 and 16, bringing back more than 2700 passengers, indicates the Quai d'Orsay, Monday evening (October 16).

L'Germany asked the national airline Lufthansa to carry out several special flights on Thursday and Friday to Israel to repatriate nationals and dual nationals. Then the Bundeswehr was activated.

Four flights had already been organized on Thursday (October 12) to evacuate 950 people (including more than 850 Germans), announcement the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. In total, around 2800 Germans were “ helped to leave the country by land, air and sea » specifies Foreign Affairs. On Sunday, two special flights from the Condor company are organized from Akaba in Jordan. German Air Force aircraft rotations took over. Two Bundeswehr A400M planes officially transporting “humanitarian material” to Israel were able to repatriate 80 additional people during the night from Saturday to Sunday (October 15) to Wunstorf air base. Another A321 aircraft shuttled to Cologne. In total, 220 additional people were able to be evacuated, indicates the Bundeswehr on Twitter.

After hesitating United Kingdom launched its evacuation operation on Thursday (October 12). Via private planes, with paid journey. Each person required to pay an amount of £300 specifies the communicated of the Foreign Office.

Le Denmark carried out its first evacuation on Friday (October 13) evening. 82 Danish were picked up at Ben Gurion Airport in Tel Aviv and transported by a Defense Forces C-130 Hercules aircraft to Phapos Airport in Cyprus. Additional flights are planned for the weekend.

La Sweden decided to charter a plane to repatriate its nationals. 143 people – Swedes with their families – arrived in a first flight on the night of Thursday to Friday (October 13) at Stockholm-Arlanda airport. A second plane landed during the night from Friday to Saturday (October 14), with approximately 120 passengers (including 31 Finns and other European nationals).

La Greece mainly used El Al flights to repatriate its nationals.

90 tourists Greeks were able to be repatriated in a first flight, 68 others Tuesday (October 10), indicated the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Athens. Moreover 72 Greeks residing in Israel, who wished to be repatriated, returned on Thursday (October 12). On board the planes other nationals took part (Austria, Germany, Albania, Belgium, North Macedonia, Bulgaria, Ireland, Latvia, Ukraine in particular).

La Slovakia sent a government plane to repatriate its fellow citizens. permitted in three flights. In total more than 260 citizens Slovaks were repatriated from Israel on three flights. A fourth flight brought back Saturday (October 14) nearly 100 citizens from 14 other countries, from Europe and beyond. The first flight under the new EU crisis management module, Flight & Shelter, indicated Slovak diplomacy.

La Finland repatriated Saturday morning (October 14), 149 people aboard his own evacuation flight.

To be continued...

(Nicolas Gros-Verheyde)

  1. Air France, Lufthansa, Iberia, Ita Airways in particular have interrupted their flights. But certain regular European companies such as the Romanian Tarom or Air Serbia continued their flights, as well as Wizzair, Ryanair and Easyjet, as did Israeli companies (such as El Al). What calls out...

Updated October 10 (Italy, Czechia, Austria, Netherlands, Germany, France) - October 12 (Hungary, Germany, United Kingdom, Poland, Romania) - October 13 (quantified results Hungary, Italy, Country -Bas, Czechia) - October 14 (Denmark, Spain, Sweden, Finland, Slovakia, Germany, France, Portugal + structuring of paragraphs, chapo and counterchapo with comments) - October 15 (Poland, Romania) - 16 October (Germany, Bulgaria, France, Romania)

Nicolas Gros Verheyde

Chief editor of the B2 site. Graduated in European law from the University of Paris I Pantheon Sorbonne and listener to the 65th session of the IHEDN (Institut des Hautes Etudes de la Défense Nationale. Journalist since 1989, founded B2 - Bruxelles2 in 2008. EU/NATO correspondent in Brussels for Sud-Ouest (previously West-France and France-Soir).