Kerala pilgrims stuck in Israel lands in Kochi airport; share ordeal
The pilgrims from Kerala who were stranded in Israel amid war with Hamas returned safely on Thursday (Oct 12) morning. Additionally, India has launched Operation Ajay to facilitate the return of its citizens from Israel. There are 18,000 Indians in the country.
Kochi: In a major sigh of relief, pilgrims from Kerala who went to the 'Holy Land' on October 3, landed back safely on Thursday (Oct 12). The pilgrim group who were stranded in Israel following the Israel-Palestine conflict reached India via Egypt. Maulavi, a native of Aluva, and his family said that they were scared in the first hour of the war. Maulavi said that he crossed the border accompanied by security personnel.
Speaking to Asianet News, he said, "We got know about the attack by Hamas when we were about to leave on Saturday (Oct 7) morning. Not knowing what was going on, the decision was made to return back quickly. However, we had to stay there for a day."
He added, " That day was full of anxiety. Not only fear but also concern about whether we would be able to return. The next day, Sunday we left at 9.30 am and reached Egypt at 4 pm. We felt peace when we reached there. All the borders would have been closed if the journey had been extended by one more day. Later, the central government will have to intervene and arrange the air service."
The group travelled through Jordan before arriving in Israel, where they spent three days. On Saturday morning, when the group was leaving Israel after finishing their tour there, the attacks started. The army then closed all the roads.
They were transported to Cairo on Sunday via the chaotic Taba border. The group claimed to have seen the missiles that caused the damage.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday vowed to keep fighting Hamas, saying that every member of the Palestinian militant group was "a dead man". The war, so far, has killed nearly 3,700 people on both sides of Israel in Gaza.
Additionally, India has launched Operation Ajay to facilitate the return of its citizens from Israel. There are 18,000 Indians in the country.
"Special charter flights and other arrangements are being put in place. Fully committed to the safety and well-being of our nationals abroad," Foreign Minister S Jaishankar said in a post on X, formerly Twitter.