Rajya Sabha MP Dr Wanweiroy Kharlukhi, his wife, and daughter, are among several Indians stranded in Israel as the country plummetted into chaos following a surprise land-sea-air attack by Palestinian group Hamas on Saturday, sources have said.
Dr Kharlukhi, a senior member of the ruling National Peoples Party (NPP) in Meghalaya, and 24 other natives of the northeastern state who traveled to Jerusalem for a pilgrimage are stuck in Bethlehem due to the rapidly escalating violence.
Meghalaya Chief Minister and NPP chief Conrad Sangma said he is in touch with the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) to ensure their safe passage back home. According to sources, they might be evacuated by the Indian Mission to Egypt on Sunday.
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Indian embassies in Israel and Palestine have warned Indian citizens to stay alert and contact them if needed, as the full-scale war between Hamas and Israel has claimed over 500 lives so far.
Over 18,000 Indian citizens live in Israel, mostly caregivers, IT professionals, and students. Additionally, there are about 85,000 Jews of Indian origin in Israel. The main waves of immigration from India to Israel occurred in the 1950s and 1960s, but in recent years, there has been an increase in the immigration of Jewish people from Mizoram and Manipur.
“In view of the current situation in Israel, all Indian nationals in Israel are requested to remain vigilant and observe safety protocols as advised by local authorities. Please exercise caution, avoid unnecessary movement, and stay close to safety shelters,” the Indian Embassy said in its advisory.
The advisory included relevant phone numbers for emergencies and links to the Israeli Home Front Command’s preparedness brochures.
“Today was a very difficult day, we have never seen a situation (like this). Within 20 minutes, 5,000 rockets were fired, and they (Hamas militants) killed 22 people while 500 were injured. This is a very difficult situation for the country,” said Soma Ravi, an Indian national working in Israel for 18 years, as quoted by news agency PTI.
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Following the attacks by Hamas, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declared a ‘state of war’ and launched an offensive against the Palestinian group, particularly in the sensitive Gaza Strip.
Fearing the war, Vikas Sharma, an Indian student at the Hebrew University in Tel Aviv said, “There’s a tense situation in Israel because of the attack, but all the Indian students are safe. Most of the students are staying in dorms and accommodations provided by the college. We are in contact with each other as well as the Indian embassy through WhatsApp.”
On Saturday night, the Representative Office of India in Ramallah posted a public notice urging Indian nationals in Palestine to contact the office in case of emergency. The notice provided two contact numbers for a 24/7 emergency helpline.
In the bloodiest escalation of the conflict since the 1973 Yom Kippur War, Hamas launched a massive rocket barrage and ground, air, and sea offensive, killing more than 300 Israelis and wounding 1,000, according to the Israeli army. Gaza officials said that Israeli airstrikes on the coastal enclave had killed at least 232 Palestinians and wounded nearly 1,700.