Hundreds of Australians evacuated from Tel Aviv have returned home to an emotional reunion, as the federal government tries to ensure safe passage for more people still stuck in war-torn Israel.
A flight from Dubai containing 222 evacuated Australians, including families, landed in Sydney on Tuesday evening, many of them showing their enormous relief and emotions.
Some of them were picked up in Israel on government flights on Monday.
Foreign Minister Penny Wong posted on social media that Australia had flown 194 people from Tel Aviv to Dubai on Monday, including 75 Australians and their families.
Another return flight for Australian evacuees is also due to leave London on Tuesday evening Australian time.
A flight from Dubai containing evacuated Australians landed in Sydney on Tuesday evening, many of them showing clear relief and emotion. Pictured: Joyful passengers disembarking in Sydney
Relieved, Australians evacuated from Tel Aviv returned home to a tearful reunion as the war between Israel and Gaza continues. Pictured: Family members embrace after the repatriation flight lands
Family members smile as they are welcomed home after arriving at Sydney International Airport on a DFAT repatriation flight
Relieved passengers who were evacuated from Israel greet friends and family at Sydney Airport on Tuesday evening
At least 45 Australians remain stuck in Gaza with limited access to water, electricity, fuel and food after Israel imposed a total blockade on the conflict-hit territory.
Foreign Minister Penny Wong said the humanitarian situation in the region was “dire”, with efforts underway to allow stranded people to cross the border out of Gaza.
“The situation for Australians in Gaza and their families back home is deeply distressing,” she told parliament on Tuesday.
“We are doing everything we can to support the work of the United States, Egypt and other countries to make the Rafah border crossing open for humanitarian purposes, including the passage of civilians.
“Unfortunately, efforts to secure passage have not yet been successful, despite numerous attempts.”
Senator Wong said the Government was already planning accommodation and onward travel for Australians in Gaza if safe passage through the border post was ensured.
The government has already asked citizens to go to the Rafah border crossing between Egypt and Gaza in case a humanitarian window opens, but there is no guarantee that this will happen or how long that window will remain open.
The Foreign Minister also confirmed that the National Emergency Management Agency had activated plans to provide assistance to those returning to Australia on repatriation flights.
Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said Australia supported neighboring countries’ repatriation efforts, coinciding with a visit to Canberra by Fiji’s prime minister.
An Australian government official hugs a relieved passenger on a flight from Israel to Dubai on Monday. A flight to Australia followed on Tuesday
More than 220 Australians have returned to Sydney after an emergency flight from war-torn Israel. Pictured: A relieved woman arriving home shows her passport after a flight from Tel Aviv to Dubai
“Australia is playing the role we have always played in the Pacific family, providing support where we can, because it obviously does not have the capacity to help its citizens,” he said. Tuesday to journalists.
“This is a way for Australia to help not only its own citizens but also others.”
ASIO chief Mike Burgess said the intelligence agency had warned of possible spontaneous violence following the Middle East conflict.
At a news conference alongside FBI Director Christopher Wray in the United States, Mr Burgess urged political leaders to advocate restraint.
“We of course recognize that this is a moment that shapes feelings and attitudes in our respective countries and in Australia, so we are on the lookout for that as we see protests and counter-protests …but we anticipate spontaneous violence around those, he said.
“We see a direct correlation between language that stirs up tension and out of that tension comes a small number of people who think violence is the answer.”
Israel has begun to assemble its forces to strike the Islamist terrorist group Hamas, after an October 7 attack that killed more than 1,300 people and led to the taking hostage of more than 150 people, making it the most murderer in the history of the country.
The Israeli Defense Forces responded by besieging the 2.3 million Palestinians living in Gaza and unleashing a continuing bombing campaign that has killed at least 2,750 people in the territory.
Gaza civilians have no electricity, water is scarce and dwindling fuel sources used for emergency generators could run out by the next day.
According to the United Nations, around a million Gazans have been driven from their homes.
More than 1,200 Australians have already been evacuated from Israel and Palestine.
Australia helped arrange a flight for 194 people from Israel to Dubai on Monday evening. Pictured: An Australian government official helped a passenger with travel documents
Australia flew 194 people from Tel Aviv to Dubai on Monday, including 75 Australians and their families. Pictured: An official helps travelers fill out documents