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First passengers arrive from Haifa at Limassol port (update 3)

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Israelis arriving in Limassol from Haifa

Forty-five of the passengers who arrived from Haifa at Limassol port early on Tuesday morning have already been transferred to Larnaca airport.

They were among a group of 159 evacuees that consisted of mostly dual US-Israeli citizens, some elderly, families with children and tourists.

At the same time, around 100 foreign nationals, primarily US citizens, were transported from Limassol port to the Anarita migrant reception centre in Paphos, where they are expected to remain for a few days while awaiting flight availability.

Preparations for their temporary accommodation and meals were made in collaboration with Civil Defence and the foreign ministry, in cooperation with the Cyprus Red Cross in the days leading up to their arrival.

“We are doing our best to ensure that all arrivals from Israel reach their respective countries safely and in coordination with each country’s embassy and the authorities of seaports and airports,” Civil Defence spokesperson Chara Lazarou said.

The passengers who travelled on the cruise ship Rhapsody of the Seas docked at Limassol port around 6.15am, amid heightened security measures including armed police and sniffer dogs, to be met by US embassy staff. The ship had departed from Haifa on Monday around 4.15pm.

The cruise liner, with a capacity for 2,500, was initially expected to carry thousands more people wishing to evacuate from Israel, and make four return trips.

Speaking to the Cyprus News Agency, the US ambassador to Cyprus Julie Fisher, who was at Limassol port when the vessel docked, underlined the collaboration between the United States and Cyprus.

“We have a significant presence of some of our best counsellors here to assist American citizens seeking support as they depart Israel,” she said, adding that the support of American citizens remains a top priority for any US embassy worldwide.

“This is a very challenging moment, as you can imagine, for those who choose to leave Israel. Therefore, we want to help and do everything we can to make this as smooth as possible.”

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When asked about the small number on the boat, Fisher said that each family and individual American citizen would make their own decisions regarding what works best for them and their safety.

However, she praised the Cypriot government for its assistance and for “making a significant difference for our citizens and those of many other countries.”

Fisher also suggested that the lower-than-expected number of arrivals from Haifa can be further explained by US President Joe Biden’s visit to Israel on Wednesday.

“The visit suggests that there are ongoing developments in Israel and in the region in general.

“We are still ready to plan additional evacuation plans for our citizens in Israel and the cooperation we have with Cyprus in supporting our compatriots is incredibly vital to our planning. I hope we will continue these efforts,” Fisher said.

Speaking on CyBC’s morning programme, director of the president’s press office Victoras Papadopoulos stated that ferries at 12 hour intervals had been planned.

“What happened is very scary, beyond our imagination, thousands are being murdered and butchered, for no reason just because we’re Jewish. Its horrific,” one mother carrying a baby told Philenews.

Asked how long she expected to be absent the evacuee replied, “I have no idea, at least about a month.”

Last Friday, the first evacuation of people by sea was carried out on board the Crown Iris cruise ship which carried 1,000 passengers, mostly Europeans, to Larnaca port. Three hundred of the passengers were expected to return to their home countries.

As the passengers disembarked from the cruise ship, approximately 150 Israeli passengers who had arrived in Cyprus from various European countries boarded the ship to return to Israel.

Foreign ministry spokesman Theodoros Gotsis said that the aim is for foreign nationals to be repatriated, however, he stressed that all necessary arrangements have been made to accommodate those in transit.

Under the Estia plan, points have been set up in the port of Limassol to provide food as well as basic necessities for children and the elderly.

From the activation of the Estia plan on October 10 at 1.30pm up to and including October 17, a total of 1,084 people have arrived in Cyprus, most of whom have already been repatriated, the ministry said on Tuesday.

The figures do not include the more than 2,500 Israelis reported to have landed in Cyprus on commercial flights since the Hamas attacks.

The ministry added that since the activation of the plan, representatives of all services are permanently present at the Zenon coordination centre in Larnaca, Paphos airport and the ports of the Republic, and constant coordination with the diplomatic missions in the region in underway.

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