Operation Ajay: First batch of Indians return home from Israel
Amid the escalating tensions in Israel, at least 212 Indian citizens arrived in the national capital from the first flight under 'Operation Ajay'
The first batch of around 200 Indians, including students, returned to the country from Israel onboard a chartered flight in the early hours of Friday, 13 October.
India has launched Operation Ajay to facilitate the return of those who wish to come back home as a series of brazen attacks on Israeli towns by Hamas over the weekend triggered fresh tension in the region.
Union Minister Rajeev Chandrasekhar welcomed the passengers at the Delhi airport as they streamed into the lounge area from the tarmac side. He greeted them with folded hands and also shook hands with many of them saying, "Welcome home".
Shashwat Singh, a post-doctoral researcher, who has been living in Israel since 2019, reached Delhi along with his wife.
"We woke up to sounds of air raids' sirens. We stay in central Israel. I don't know what shape this conflict will take... I am doing postdoc in agriculture there," he told PTI.
The evacuation of Indians is a "praiseworthy step", Singh said soon after the flight landed. "We hope peace will be restored and we will return to work... The Indian government got in touch with us via email. We are thankful to Prime Minister Modi and the Indian Embassy in Israel." MEA spokesperson Arindam Bagchi on Thursday said around 18,000 Indians are currently residing in Israel while about a dozen people are in the West Bank and three to four are in Gaza.
The multi-pronged attacks against Israel by Hamas from Gaza since Saturday and the subsequent Israeli retaliation have left around 2,600 people dead. Israel has launched a massive counter-offensive in Gaza to avenge the attacks by Hamas.
Suparno Ghosh, a West Bengal native and a first-year PhD student of the Ben-Gurion University of the Negev at Beersheba in Israel, was among the group of Indians who reached Delhi on the special flight.
"We were in shelters... the Israeli government has made shelters everywhere, so we were safe," he said.
Deepak, a student, said, "We heard sirens on Saturday. As the attack happened, we could hear the sound. Israeli authorities were instructing us (to take safety measures). It was a continuous attack. I am happy to return home, but sad also, as our friends are there (in Israel)," he said.
But, the evacuation process was very smooth, the student told reporters.
Duti Banerjee, another West Bengal native who was also among the first batch of Indians evacuated from Israel, said the situation there was "pretty messy and unsettled".
"Normal life has been paused. People are scared and angry. Even when I was leaving, I heard sirens and had to go to a shelter," she said.
Published: 13 Oct 2023, 11:24 AM