13 Samoan pilgrims safely evacuated from Israel

Photo: Samoan delegates for Israel 2023/Facebook

The last group of Samoans in Israel were safely evacuated from Jerusalem to Dubai, Tuesday.

The Samoa’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a media statement that 13 Samoans boarded the Australian air force flight early yesterday morning to Dubai where they have now joined eight other members of their group who departed Jerusalem on an earlier Australian air force flight on Sunday 15 October 2023.

The group will continue on their original return itinerary via Singapore- Fiji-Samoa and expected to arrive at Faleolo Airport on Friday 20th October.

The group comprises a toddler, one student and the rest Christian pilgrims who traveled to Jerusalem to attend the annual prayer conference, the Welcome the King of Glory Gathering usually convened in October.

“We thank the Government of Australia for the timely response in providing the critical opportunities for the group to exit Israel and for the effective collaboration with teams in Apia, Canberra and Israel that facilitated the safe departures from Israel amidst the escalating crisis resulting in flight cancellations,” the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said.

“We acknowledge the support of New Zealand through advice of available flights; unfortunately, the opportunities were missed.  Likewise we proudly acknowledge  in particular the untiring efforts of Vincent Schmidt UN Security and Personal Protection Officer in seeking out Samoans known to be in Jerusalem to be prepared for immediate departure, His nightly live broadcasts provided reassurance to families of the group of their safety.

“Our missions in Canberra, Tokyo and particularly Brussels as well as some members of the diaspora in Dubai created a tight network to share information, provide encouragement to members of the group and support in processing transit visas.”

Out of the total of 194 passengers on board the two Australian-assisted flights on Monday this week, 96 people were from Pacific nations. Israel continues to launch relentless air attacks on Gaza city with a major ground attack pending since the militant group Hamas launched a multipronged offensive on Israel on 7 October 2023. The death toll on both sides stands at over 4,000 with thousands more injured and a major humanitarian crisis developing as the attacks continue.

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