THE ongoing escalation of hostilities in Gaza and the surrounding areas following a surprise attack on Israel by Hamas has prompted the Australian Government to draw up a formal contingency for an emergency evacuation plan for stranded Aussies in the area.
The government is reportedly examining options to retrieve Australian travellers in the event that airlines continue to cancel flights, with carriers from all around the globe already avoiding the area due to the safety threat posed to their customers.
If such an airlift repatriation operation did take place, it would likely be similar to the 2006 incident under former Prime Minister John Howard when ships and planes were used to pull thousands of Australian citizens out of Lebanon following conflict with Israel.
The media reports followed DFAT reviewing its travel advisory to Israel for Aussie travellers, moving the warning from ‘exercise a high degree of caution’ to ‘reconsider your need to travel’.
Among the airlines to avoid the air hub in Tel Aviv for the foreseeable future include Emirates, United Airlines, Delta Air Lines, Air India and Lufthansa to name just a few.
On the ground, tour operators have also been quick to pull out of the region, with Collette the latest brand to abandon all departures.
So big a risk does Collette consider the conflict, that it has decided to cancel tours until the end of the year.
Over the weekend the tour operator ensured that almost 100 travellers who were on tour in the region were able to fly home safely, after Collette made the early decision to move groups north to Jordan so they could access Amman flights, rather than waiting for Tel Aviv services.
Executive VP Jeff Roy said Collette was closely monitoring developments in Israel and making operating decisions for tours post 01 January 2024 at least 60 days in advance of travel.
“We are deeply saddened by the events that transpired in Israel over the weekend,” he said.
Meanwhile Intrepid has decided to extend the cancellation of tour departures in Israel and the Palestinian Territories up until and including 31 October.
The latest decision is being communicated to all affected customers, Intrepid said, adding that it had a small number of travellers in Israel when violence broke out on Sat but thankfully all travellers and tour leaders were safely accounted for.
With the conflict tipped by observers to be a long and protracted affair, lamentably there is likely to be much more disruption to come, and we can only hope for a speedy resolution to the horrible human tragedy currently unfolding in the Middle East.