Australians on the trip of a lifetime to Israel and now stuck in the war-torn region are demanding to know why the Australian government is doing nothing to help them escape, while other countries are sending rescue flights for their citizens.
Paul and Audrey West, from Newcastle, had been guiding a group of 33 holidaymakers through Israel for around two weeks when the Hamas terror group began firing rockets from the Gaza Strip on Saturday morning.
They were on the beach in Tel Aviv when the bomb sirens sounded. So they ran to the nearest cafe to seek shelter and spent the next four days hiding while frantically trying to organize new flights home.
The couple’s daughter, Brittany West, told Daily Mail Australia the group was in Gaza about 24 hours before the attacks.
She said their initial flights were canceled and it was difficult to get a seat on new flights due to limited options after airlines stopped operating through Israel.
“Anything that came in was quickly booked,” she said.
As the group watches travelers from other countries like Canada, Germany, Romania, Greece, Hungary, India, Thailand and Brazil be repatriated by their own governments, they wonder why leaders Australians do not do the same.
Pictured: The group of Australian tourists stuck in Israel when war broke out on Saturday. Thirteen are still blocked
Pictured: Tour guide Paul West, pictured frontally, and other members of the group at a bomb shelter in Tel Aviv
Twenty members of the group managed to book flights for Tuesday, but about 13 are still waiting.
Today, staff at the hotel where they sought refuge are urging them to flee, telling them: “do everything you can to get out because the situation will only get worse.”
Brittany said there was a sense of urgency and fear among everyone who was left behind.
“They’re doing everything they can to get on a flight, but they keep getting canceled,” she said.
“I spoke to one of the couples last night and they honestly feel abandoned by the government. We don’t understand why other governments are able to evacuate their residents.”
“There really needs to be a rescue mission, but if we wait too long it could be a recovery mission.”
Brittany said her parents have been organizing the tours with a company in Israel since around 2011, but this year was their first trip since the pandemic.
Brittany’s mother Audrey posted a photo of Gaza just 24 hours before it became a war zone (photo)
Paul and Audrey West (pictured) have been guiding Australians through Israel since 2011
She urged the government to charter a flight for Australians, like other countries, and called on Australians to put pressure on the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT).
NATIONS WITH RESCUE FLIGHTS
Romania, Poland, Hungary, Bulgaria, Serbia, Albania, Croatia, Greece, Thailand, India
Around 10,000 Australians are still in Israel, according to Defense Minister Richard Marles.
DFAT did not respond to the group’s dilemma or why the Albanian government was not doing more.
Instead, a spokesperson told Daily Mail Australia that the government is “monitoring the situation closely and remaining in contact with local authorities.”
“There are currently commercial flights available and Australians in Israel who wish to leave should pursue these options,” he said.
“Our hearts go out to those killed and injured in these attacks and to all those affected.”
Mr Albanese was also criticized for his “vulgar” response to anti-Semitic protests in Sydney on Monday.
The couple (pictured center and second from right) work with a tour group in Israel (managers pictured left and right)
John Howard, who led Australia following the September 11 attacks, said the prime minister’s denunciation did not go far enough.
“Mr Albanese should make unequivocal statements, as should the foreign minister,” he told The Australian.
“Instead there is prevarication and lukewarm condemnation. Then you have the Attorney General of New South Wales (Michael Daley) saying everyone should stay calm and go home.
“How can we remain calm while demonstrators invoke the memory of the Shoah? Do people stay calm in there?
The civilian death toll from Hamas attacks on Israel has risen to more than 1,000, while the total death toll has reached 3,100 since the war began on Saturday.
Galit Carbone, 66, a grandmother of Australian origin, was among those killed in Kibbutz Beeri, about 5 km from the Gaza Strip. His body was found a few meters from his home.