In a remarkable rescue operation, hundreds of Spaniards and their families have been safely evacuated from the volatile Gaza Strip and arrived in Madrid. The evacuation mission, carried out by the Spanish Air and Space Force, brought relief to 139 individuals who had been living in constant fear and uncertainty since the Hamas attack on Israel.
Journey to Safety
The evacuation process began when an Air and Space Force A330 aircraft departed from Cairo International Airport bound for Madrid. After a nerve-wracking five-hour flight, the plane touched down at Torrejon Air Base, where the evacuees were warmly received by the Minister of Foreign Affairs, José Manuel Albares, and the Minister of Defense, Margarita Robles.
Among the evacuees were 67 minors, including three infants under the age of one, 39 women, and 33 men. While 85 of them held dual Spanish-Palestinian citizenship, the rest entered Spain using their Palestinian passports, which are recognized by the Spanish government despite not formally recognizing Palestine as a state.
Diplomatic Negotiations and Challenges
Spanish government faced significant challenges in facilitating the evacuation from Gaza. It required the dedicated efforts of 50 diplomats and 12 days of intense negotiations with Israel and Egypt, which had opened the Rafah border crossing to allow the departure of Spanish citizens.
The prolonged process raised concerns and anxieties among the evacuees, prompting Minister Robles to express her worries about the delay and even hint at potential obstacles imposed by Hamas. However, the successful arrival of the evacuees in Madrid demonstrated the effectiveness of diplomatic efforts in overcoming these obstacles.
Evacuation in Multiple Phases
To ensure a safe evacuation, the Spanish authorities facilitated the departure of the Spaniards in three separate groups. The first group of 40 individuals left Gaza on Monday, followed by another group of 74 on Tuesday. Finally, the remaining 29 individuals were evacuated on Wednesday.
Upon crossing the Rafah border, all evacuees underwent a secondary screening by Egyptian authorities before being transported by consulate personnel in buses for the 374-kilometer journey from Rafah to Cairo.
Those who had already arrived in Cairo had to await the completion of the evacuation process before returning to Spain. While the initial plan was to evacuate 143 individuals, only 139 boarded the final flight to Madrid.
Collaborative Efforts for Evacuation
The success of the evacuation mission was not only dependent on diplomatic negotiations but also on the combined efforts of the military personnel involved. A total of 13 soldiers from the 45th Air Force Group, 8 from the Aerial Deployment Support Squadron, 4 from the Aeromedical Evacuation Unit, and 4 from the Air Combat Command participated in the rescue operation.
These military personnel were coordinated by a team of 15 individuals from the Operations Command, which falls under the jurisdiction of the Defense Staff. With sleepless nights and meticulous planning, the military and diplomatic teams ensured the safe return of the evacuees to Spain.
The successful evacuation of hundreds of Spaniards and their families from the conflict-ridden Gaza Strip to Madrid marks a significant achievement for the Spanish government. The dedication of diplomats and military personnel, as well as the cooperation between Spain, Israel, and Egypt, played a crucial role in ensuring the safe passage of the evacuees.
While challenges were faced along the way, the arrival of the evacuees in Madrid brings hope and relief to those who have experienced the horrors of war. It serves as a reminder of the importance of international cooperation and humanitarian efforts in times of crisis.