Israel-Hamas Conflict: The first charter flight to repatriate Indian citizens who were stranded in Israel due to the ongoing conflict arrived in New Delhi on Friday morning.

The flight, carrying 212 Indian passengers, including an infant, departed on Thursday night from Israel’s Ben Gurion airport under the operation called ‘Ajay’. These passengers were selected on a “first come, first serve” basis.

Union Minister Rajeev Chandrashekar was present at the airport to receive the returning Indian nationals, as seen in a video shared by news agency ANI.

On Thursday night, India’s External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar posted pictures of the first repatriation of stranded citizens on social media, announcing, “Operation Ajay gets underway. 212 citizens onboard the flight are en route to New Delhi.”

The government initiated ‘Operation Ajay’ on Wednesday to bring back Indian citizens stranded in Israel, where intense fighting with the terrorist group Hamas has been taking place. Commercial flights to and from Israel, including those operated by Air India, had been suspended since the conflict began on October 7.

The operation includes using special chartered flights to bring back Indian citizens, and Indian Navy ships could also be deployed if necessary.

Approximately 18,000 Indians reside in Israel, including students, professionals, and traders.

Additionally, the Ministry of External Affairs has established a 24-hour control room in the national capital to monitor the situation in Israel and Palestine, with provided toll-free and contact numbers. An emergency helpline is also accessible through the Indian embassy.

As the Israel-Hamas war continues into its seventh day, over 2,800 people from both sides have lost their lives, and 423,000 people have been displaced from their homes.

The conflict was triggered when Hamas militants launched a surprise attack on Israel last Saturday, citing a long-standing dispute related to the Al-Aqsa Mosque, a sacred site for both Muslims and Jews. In response to this attack, the Israeli military has been carrying out nearly constant airstrikes.

On Thursday, Israel stated that it was prepared for a potential ground operation in Gaza, although a final decision on this had not been made by political leadership.

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