25 October 2023

More ADF troops and aircraft headed to Middle East to support Australians in Israel, Gaza and Lebanon

| Andrew McLaughlin
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RAAF KC-30A Tel Aviv

The crew of an RAAF KC-30A MRTT on the ramp at Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion International Airport on 19 October. Photo: ADF.

UPDATE 5 PM: Defence has confirmed the larger deployment will see two Lockheed Martin C-130J-30 Hercules transports from 37 Squadron based at Richmond near Sydney join an Amberley, QLD-based Boeing C-17A from 36 Squadron that is already deployed to the region.

10:30 AM: Just a week after pausing evacuation flights for Australian and Pacific nation citizens from Tel Aviv, the Australian Defence Force will ramp up its presence in the Middle East as tensions continue to rise.

Speaking on ABC News Breakfast this morning, Acting Prime Minister and Defence Minister Richard Marles said two additional aircraft and an unspecified number of troops would be deployed to an undisclosed base in the region.

The deployment is likely in response to an imminent ground invasion of Gaza by Israeli forces, threats from Iran to join the conflict if the invasion goes ahead, and increasing clashes between Israeli forces and the Hezbollah militant group along the border with Lebanon.

Last week, a number of cruise missiles and drones were fired from militant-held Yemen towards Israel, but they were intercepted by a US Navy vessel sailing in the Red Sea.

Under Operation BEECH, the initial Tel Aviv evacuation flights were conducted over a four-day period from 15 October by Royal Australian Air Force C-17A and KC-30A transport aircraft, and an aircraft chartered by the government.

While Mr Marles didn’t reveal what aircraft types would be deployed for the latest effort, it’s likely C-17As will again be part of the contingent, and possibly a C-130J Hercules.

READ ALSO RAAF takes over evacuation of Australians from Israel

Australia maintains a Defence logistics hub at Al Minhad Air Base in Dubai. However, due to its proximity to Lebanon and Israel, the latest deployment might be to the UK’s base at Akrotiri in Cyprus.

“We hope that this is confined to Israel and Gaza, but we’re all watching this as the world is watching this, and we want to make sure that we’re prepared if matters do get worse,” Mr Marles told the ABC.

“It is a significant contingent which goes with these two additional aircraft, which joins the one additional aircraft which is still in the Middle East.

“That takes a total to three. We’re not identifying where they will be, but the point of this is to provide support to Australian populations who are in the Middle East if this gets worse … we very much hope it doesn’t.”

Supporting military personnel are expected to include a medical contingent, logistics, maintenance and security, while there will likely also be a DFAT and Services Australia contingent.

No timing was given for the deployment, but it’s likely to already be en route or imminent.

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