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Larnaca ready as transit hub for Israel evacuees

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Cyprus is ready to receive foreign nationals evacuating Israel following a massive surprise attack launched by Hamas from the Gaza Strip and Israel’s retaliatory strikes.

Interior Minister Constantinos Ioannou said the island has the infrastructure to receive many people fleeing the war zone and Cyprus to be used as a transit station as in the Sudan crisis.

“We have also recently responded to a similar situation when the ‘ESTIA’ Project was activated with complete success.

“There is definitely always a limit to our capacity, but we cannot determine this in advance as we have no clarity on the number of possible evacuees.

“But we are here; the government is willing to help if and when other countries ask us to do it,” said Ioannou.

In April-May, Cyprus helped evacuate 2,611 people from Sudan during an 11-day airlift operation using Larnaca airport.

Larnaca airport said it’s ready to act as a transit station in case of evacuation of foreign nationals from Israel, operator Hermes Airports senior manager Maria Kouroupi said on Monday.

“At Larnaca airport both yesterday (Sunday) and today, several emergency flights were bound for Israel.

“Today we expect 20 departures and 20 arrivals to the neighbouring country, of which 11 were scheduled in the last 24 hours,” Kouroupi told the Cyprus News Agency.

Another three departures and arrivals from and to the Paphos airport have been scheduled.

Referring to flights that have arrived and left for Israel, Kouroupi said: “Flights arriving in Cyprus and those departing for Israel were full over the weekend.

“Most of the arriving passengers are people who are either returning or coming to Cyprus, while the departing ones are mainly Israelis”.

Kouroupi said that among arrivals from Israel were nationals from the US, Canada, and other third countries.

“The ministries of foreign affairs and transport are already in communication, and possible reception areas have already been prepared in case it is deemed necessary,” Kouroupi said.

According to Cyprus News Agency, Israeli airlines are adding special flights from Larnaca Airport to Tel Aviv to return Israelis who are either in Cyprus or will arrive on the island from other countries.

Meanwhile, the Cyprus News Agency reported that five local patients treated in Israel and their families are doing well.

One of three groups, around 300 people in Israel for pilgrimage and tourism, returned to Cyprus Sunday, while the second group will depart from Tel Aviv today.

Larnaca Bishop Nektarios, in Tel Aviv for a church conference, will remain in Israel until Wednesday.

Israel’s cabinet on Sunday declared a “state of war” after a massive surprise attack launched by Hamas killed at least 700 in Israel, while retaliatory Israeli airstrikes killed at least 413 in Gaza.