Over 200 Czechs repatriated from Israel on government planes

Repatriation of Czechs from Israel

The repatriation of Czechs from Israel was successfully concluded on Friday, with a total of 228 citizens returning to the country on six government planes. In addition, the Czech government met Israel’s request for it to fly home Israelis who wish to return to defend their country. I asked the head of the Czech Foreign Ministry’s press department, Daniel Drake, for more details.

Daniel Drake | Photo: Czech Foreign Ministry

“As of 11 o’clock this morning, Czechia ended the repatriation of its citizens from Israel. All Czech citizens who expressed interest in being repatriated to the Czech Republic via government planes, paid for by the government, departed yesterday. The final repatriation flight landed in Prague around 10:40 this morning.”

Was this a logistically demanding mission?

“This was one of the most logistically demanding events in Czech history. I remember the evacuation of people from Afghanistan a couple of years ago and this was a more difficult event in terms of security risks, in terms of the number of flights and people. Back then, it was around 195 Czech people evacuated on three planes, but today we are talking about 230 people on six planes. It was difficult to coordinate and navigate this with various partners. You have to have a flight permit from all the countries you want to fly over. The very first flight that departed from Oman with Minister Lipavský was organized roughly ten hours before it departed, it was very quick and there was not too much time to wait.”

Israelis living in Czechia who wanted to return to their country were flown home on these flights, can you say how many individuals took this opportunity?

Photo: Ondřej Deml,  ČTK

“When Mr. Lipavský was in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem on Tuesday, he told his counterpart Eli Cohen that Czechia was ready to help, and if there were any specific demands that they had they could put them forward. Mr. Cohen came back, one day later, with the request that Israelis in Czechia be put on repatriation flights on the way to Tel Aviv, that otherwise would have been empty. On the flight that left on Wednesday night and landed in Tel Aviv Thursday morning, 43 Israelis were on board. On the very last flight on Thursday night, roughly 30 Israelis were on board. So in total, 73 Israelis were on board two of the Czech government flights from Prague to Tel Aviv.”

I understand that the Czech Embassy’s list for repatriation is now closed, but for Czechs who are still in Israel and want to return – how can they get assistance? Is the embassy still open and functioning and able to help Czechs in Israel?

Photo: Czech Foreign Ministry

“The Czech diplomats remain in Israel to assist other individual travellers. On Thursday afternoon our embassy explicitly told all callers who rang our emergency hotline that the government will only be sending flights through Thursday night. So everyone knew that the last chance to get on a plane paid for by the government would be on Thursday. There were two flights that still had a couple of free seats on them, so there was still room for other people, but no one expressed interest. In any case, if any Czech or EU citizens express an interest to be repatriated, our embassy would probably direct them to other EU member states who are still sending repatriation flights. The alternative is to wait for a seat on the commercial flights which are still in place. The Israeli flight company is still operating and you can still get to cities like Vienna or Budapest, but in terms of government planes, there will be no more repatriation flights in the coming days.”

Emergency contact information for Czechs in Israel: The emergency line will remain in operation until Friday at 8 p.m.

Embassy in Tel Aviv (052-328 6622; from the international calling network +972 523 286 622) and the Liaison Office in Ramallah (+972 296 55 95).