Over 140 people, including 97 Lithuanian citizens, left the Israeli city of Tel Aviv on a charter flight in the early hours of Wednesday and are expected to arrive in Lithuania in the afternoon.
The flight, arranged by Skyllence, a company of Gediminas Ziemelis’ Avia Solutions Group, was delayed again last night after having been postponed twice.
“The plane finally took off at almost half past five in the morning,” Skyllence CEO Vilma Vaitiekunaite told LRT Radio on Wednesday morning.
“The people are now en route to Bucharest, where they are expected to land at 7:40 a.m. local time. We anticipate their arrival in Lithuania at around 12:50 p.m.,” she said.
According to Vaitiekunaite, there are “141 people and a baby” aboard the plane, including 97 Lithuanian citizens and 27 Israeli citizens. The rest are citizens of other countries.
The passengers include a group of around 40 pilgrims who were in the Israeli-occupied West Bank during Hamas’ weekend assault on Israel.
According to information provided by Lithuanian authorities over the weekend, around 7,000 Lithuanian citizens live in Israel and about 450 others were temporarily visiting the country.
On Tuesday, Lithuania dispatched the Armed Forces’ Spartan transport plane to the region. The 38-seat aircraft will be on standby in Turkey for a week in case Lithuanian citizens need further evacuation flights from Israel.
Audrius Bruzga, Lithuania’s ambassador to Lithuania, confirmed to LRT Radio that a Spartan flight could be organized on Wednesday if there are enough people willing to fly.
He said that there might be more than one flight and that people could be initially transported to Turkey or another European country.
Based on information available as of Wednesday morning, about 20 people who had expressed their wish to return to Lithuania were not on the Skyllence flight, according to the ambassador.
“We are waiting for information, and as soon as we reach a critical mass, we will see how many want to leave at the moment. Depending on that, we will organize a Spartan flight,” Bruzga said.
“When we know the exact number of people who want to leave today, then the flight will take place,” he added.
Vaitiekunaite said that her company was also ready to organize more flights if there is such a need.
Hamas launched its surprise attack on Israel on Saturday, invading its territory and conducting rocket attacks. Israel retaliated with strikes on Gaza. Hundreds of people have been killed on both sides of the conflict.
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