Lithuania is considering alternative options for repatriating its citizens stranded in Israel after their flight from Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion Airport has been postponed a second time, Vilmantas Vitkauskas, head of the National Crisis Center (NCC), said on Tuesday morning.
“Unfortunately, we have no good news; the flight has been postponed again. Currently, the tentative departure time is 12-14 hours from now,” he told LRT Radio.
The flight was originally scheduled for Monday night, but was later postponed to Tuesday morning.
“There is congestion and many companies refuse to fly to Israel at all. And the bad news is that commercial, scheduled flights are also being cancelled,” said Vitkauskas.
The NCC head said that Lithuania’s authorities are considering sending military aircraft to Israel to fly home citizens stranded by the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinian militant group Hamas.
“We are focusing on bringing people back to Lithuania as soon as possible,” he said.
Around 170 people were planning to return to Lithuania from Israel on the flight organized by Skyllence, a company of Gediminas Ziemelis’ Avia Solutions Group.
These include a group of 41 pilgrims who were stranded in Bethlehem and needed state assistance to pass through a checkpoint in the Israeli-occupied West Bank on their way home.
Vitkauskas said “these numbers will grow” due to flight cancelations and urged those who want to return to Lithuania to contact the embassy.
On Saturday, Hamas launched a surprise attack on Israel, 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.
UN data shows that more than 123,000 people have fled their homes in the Gaza Strip since the start of the conflict.
The Lithuanian Foreign Ministry says that, based on the embassy’s consular registration data, around 7,000 Lithuanian citizens are currently living in Israel, and some 500 others are visiting the country as tourists.
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