Australian citizens in Palestine raise fears about Dfat efforts as rescue buses cancelled

Buses had been scheduled to take Palestinian Australians from Ramallah in West Bank to Jordan but they did not go ahead

Palestinian Australians in the West Bank who fear a surge in violence have raised concerns over the Australian government’s efforts to help them escape the region, after rescue buses to Jordan were cancelled.

With no airport in the West Bank, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (Dfat) said it was organising bus transport to take Australian citizens from the Palestinian city of Ramallah over the border into Jordan, due to concerns about the ability of these dual nationals to access flights out of Israel’s Ben Gurion airport.

Dfat had intended to arrange for Australians to get on buses scheduled for on Monday and Tuesday morning, however these did not proceed, the Guardian understands. Officials will attempt to coordinate another bus service on Wednesday.

Reasons for the cancellations are unclear, and not entirely within the Australian government’s control. Dfat has not itself run each bus service, instead relying on spare seats aboard buses run by governments, such as Canada, for their citizens, it is understood.

The Guardian is also aware of Palestinian Australians in the West Bank who told Dfat they were unable to even reach Ramallah.

A crowd of people carrying aloft a body covered in a Palestinian flag

Logistics for the repatriation buses have proven difficult. In one case, Australians who had registered for assistance to exit were only given about 12 hours’ notice before Monday’s bus was due to depart at 6am the next morning.

Even if citizens make it on to the buses to Jordan, they face hurdles. To gain entry into Jordan, Australian citizens will have to prove they have booked onward travel out of the country and will be required to exit Jordan within 72 hours.

Given the pattern of Dfat–coordinated buses being cancelled, the Guardian is aware that some Australians are hesitant to book onward flights from Jordan to Australia if they don’t have assurances the buses will depart.

In addition to logistical issues they face travelling between Israeli, Palestinian and jointly controlled areas of the West Bank at short notice, citizens registered for the buses have told Guardian Australia that Dfat has not provided them with official papers or certificates to guarantee them passage through various checkpoints on their way to Ramallah.

Separately, some of those wanting to access the Australian government-coordinated buses to Jordan have raised concerns about reaching Ramallah in light of an increase in Israeli settler violence towards Palestinians in the West Bank since the outbreak of war.

“We understand it is difficult to move around at the moment,” Dfat told one Australian family in the West Bank in an email where they raised safety concerns.

The deputy prime minister, Richard Marles, told the ABC that about 45 Australians trapped in Gaza had made contact with the government, but they remained in an “extremely difficult” situation.

Unlike for Gaza, Dfat has not provided a number of Australians currently in the West Bank. Gaza is ruled by Hamas – who are warring with Israel since coordinating terrorist attacks on Israeli villages 10 days ago – while the Palestinian Authority is in power in the West Bank.

“The situation is highly challenging and rapidly changing. The Australian Government is working to ensure Australians who want to leave can do so as soon as possible,” a Dfat spokesperson said.

Officials are now working to organise what would be the first repatriation bus service for Australians stuck in the West Bank on Wednesday morning. Dfat has been liaising with local authorities to enable the crossing as soon as possible.

The Palestinian health ministry has said that 54 people, including children, had been killed and more than 1,100 injured in the West Bank since Hamas’s attack. At least 2,808 Palestinians have been killed and 10,850 injured since Israel launched attacks on the Gaza Strip, Reuters reports that the Gaza health ministry said on Monday.

At least 1,300 Isrealis have been killed and more than 100 Israeli hostages are being held in Gaza.

Australian government-organised efforts to repatriate citizens in Israel continue, with 1,200 having left the country since the outbreak of war while more than 1,000 remain.

On Monday almost 200 people, including 96 from Pacific countries, were also evacuated from Tel Aviv by the Australian government.

Evacuation flights have so far only taken Australians to third countries, mostly to Dubai in the United Arab Emirates.

A Dfat coordinated Qatar Airways flight carrying Australians from Dubai is expected to land at Sydney airport at about 6pm on Tuesday. This will be the first repatriation flight to land in Australia since war broke out. Virgin will then fly passengers for onward domestic legs. The airlines are understood to have covered these costs.

On Saturday a Qantas plane flew hundreds from Tel Aviv to London. Qantas now plans to fly these Australians on an A380 from London to Sydney via Dubai, where it will pick up hundreds more Australians who evacuated there on Sunday via air force and charter flights.

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