Poland, in co-operation with Greece, has initiated an evacuation air-bridge for Polish tourists stranded in Israel.
Already, some 500 Poles have been air-lifted to safety out of the 1000-plus potential evacuees in the country.
Two planes, each carrying around 250 Polish tourists anxious to leave Israel after the deadly Hamas attack on October 7, landed in Warsaw on October 9.
As well as its Hercules and Boeing 737 aircraft, the Polish military is also using a CASA C-295 plane as part of its evacuation operation, codenamed Neon, which is planned to run until October 15.
Polish foreign minister Zbigniew Rau told Polish public radio on October 10 that the process was proceeding smoothly. He added that Poland was receiving requests from other European Union Member States such as Lithuania and Croatia for assitance in bringing their citizens home.
“We will of course help once we have evacuated our citizens and we are well on the way to doing that,” he said.
“It is only natural that we are getting such requests as we have experience of such operations. We were one of the few countries that managed to complete the evacuations from Afghanistan and managed to help other countries then, too,” said Rau.
Polish defence minister Mariusz Błaszczak, speaking to reporters on October 9, said Poland had gathered its military resources in the port of Chania on the Greek island of Crete.
“We will be operating flights from Crete to Tel Aviv and, then, in the other direction from Tel Aviv to Crete and then to Poland,” Błaszczak said.
It was also confirmed that Poland’s President Asndrzej Duda had approved the deployment of 200 Polish soldiers in Israel who will be involved in the ongoing evacuation.
According to Błaszczak, the aim of the operation is to “maximise the possibility of evacuating Polish tourists in order to shorten the waiting time for help.” He said this process would continue for as long as there were tourists left in Israel requiring the help.
No Polish citizens are known to have perished in the Hamas attack.
Alex Dancyger, a Polish historian of Jewish origin who lives in Israel, is reported to have been abducted by Hamas and is being held hostage.