The Korea Herald

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Military aircraft carrying S. Koreans leaves Israel

By Ji Da-gyum

Published : Oct. 14, 2023 - 09:23

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The South Korean Air Force's KC-330 military transport aircraft takes off from Gimhae Air Base in the city of Busan on Friday to head for Israel for the evacuation of South Korean nationals and other foreigners (Ministry of National Defense). The South Korean Air Force's KC-330 military transport aircraft takes off from Gimhae Air Base in the city of Busan on Friday to head for Israel for the evacuation of South Korean nationals and other foreigners (Ministry of National Defense).

A South Korean military aircraft is en route to safely bring 163 nationals back home from Israel amid continuing battles between Israel and Hamas, Seoul said Saturday.

The South Korean Air Force's KC-330 Cygnus transport aircraft is scheduled to touch down at Seoul Air Base in Seongnam, Gyeonggi Province, on Saturday evening, as part of its mission to evacuate South Korean citizens stranded in Israel, according to the joint announcement by the Foreign Ministry and the Defense Ministry.

Recognizing the urgency of the situation, the Yoon Suk Yeol government decided to deploy the KC-330 Cygnus aircraft to expeditiously evacuate South Korean nationals from Israel.

Israel's military on Friday issued extensive evacuation orders affecting approximately 1.1 million people in northern Gaza within a 24-hour timeframe, according to the United Nations.

"The government has decided to dispatch military transport aircraft to Israel to support the return of our citizens at a juncture where we see that the Israel-Hamas military conflict is rapidly escalating, with the imminent likelihood of military operations in the Gaza Strip, and with the cancellation of commercial flights to Tel Aviv," a senior official at the Foreign Ministry said.

The KC-330 Cygnus departed from South Korea for Israel on Friday at noon and arrived at Ben Gurion Airport, Israel's primary airport in Tel Aviv, on Friday afternoon local time. Subsequently, the military aircraft departed from Israel early on Saturday.

Around 630 South Korean citizens were residing in Israel, including 520 long-term residents and 110 short-term visitors, according to data provided by South Korea's Foreign Ministry on Friday.

As individuals eager to return home departed on military aircraft and others left Israel via foreign commercial flights on Friday, the number of South Koreans stranded in Israel now stands at approximately 450 as of Saturday.

The count of short-term South Korean visitors in Israel has dwindled to around 10, while the number of long-term South Korean residents has decreased to 440.

The military aircraft also accommodated 51 Japanese nationals and six Singapore citizens on humanitarian grounds. This was made possible by utilizing the KC-330 Cygnus's full capacity, capable of carrying up to 230 passengers this time.

South Korea's Foreign Ministry emphasized that Seoul offered its support to Tokyo, in a gesture reminiscent of their cooperation during "Operation Promise." In the previous mission, South Korea facilitated the evacuation of both South Korean and Japanese citizens from the conflict-stricken Sudan in April.

This is not the first time the South Korean government has deployed military transport aircraft to evacuate its citizens from countries affected by war and conflict.

The KC-330 Cygnus carried out "Operation Miracle," which brought 400 Afghans fleeing the Taliban-controlled nation to Korea in August 2021, as well as the aforementioned Operation Promise.