Updated travel advice for Australians in Lebanon has been issued after the Israeli Defence Force commenced air strikes on Hezbollah sites in southern Lebanon.
Speaking to reporters in Adelaide on Sunday, Foreign Minister Penny Wong called on Australians to leave the country if their stay was unnecessary.
“If you are in Lebanon, please consider whether your need to remain there is essential,” Senator Wong said.
Wong also said Australians wishing to travel Lebanon should reconsider their plans.
Later today, multiple evacuation flights are expected to depart from Tel Aviv, with Australians boarding Australian Defence Force and civilian charter aircraft, the foreign minister also confirmed.
“I can confirm that the Australian government is planning multiple flights to depart from Tel Aviv today for Australians wanting to leave,” she said.
“We are also co-ordinating options with partners who are helping their own citizens with departures.
The situation in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories continues to change rapidly.
Subject to factors including the security environment, the Australian Government is planning multiple flights to depart from Tel Aviv today, for Australians wanting to leave.
— Senator Penny Wong (@SenatorWong) October 15, 2023
“If you wish to leave, we strongly encourage you to take the first option that becomes available to you. Please do not wait for a different option.”
The foreign minister would not confirm the number of Australians who would be travelling aboard the flights.
It follows the cancellation of two scheduled commercial flights on Saturday with the government citing a “highly challenging and rapidly changing” environment as the reason behind their scrapping.
More than 800 Australians were aboard the first government assisted flight that landed in London late on Friday local time.
About 10,000 Australians, many who are dual citizens and not seeking to leave, are currently in Israel.
Earlier on Sunday, Defence Minister Richard Marles said the number of Australians who wanted to leave Israel was in the “high hundreds”.
He told the ABC military planes would have greater flexibility than commercial options but circumstances, such as whether Israel’s airspace remained open, could complicate matters.
“We are positioned, we have the intent to put in place flights very soon, almost immediately,” he said.
“There is some greater flexibility that military flights offer in this circumstance.”
Israeli forces on Saturday said it was preparing for “significant ground operations” in Gaza in response to the deadly October 7 attack by Hamas.
Mr Marles said Israel had a right to defend itself but must “do that in a way where it acts in accordance with the rules of war”, later clarifying that he believed they were.
Liberal MP Julian Leeser said Australia needed to reconsider its diplomatic ties with Iran.
“Anybody who doesn’t think Iran has been supporting and financing Hamas over the years just hasn’t been paying attention,” he told the ABC.
“Iran is the great disrupter in the Middle East, it’s disrupting Lebanon, it’s disrupting Syria. It is a malevolent force.
“I think our support for Iran, our maintaining diplomatic relations, in a sense gives Iran a level of support and global acceptance that I think we should question.”