The Hamas attacks took place on Israeli soil, but the “unprecedented invasion” has impacted families around the world, including the Pacific.
The Islamist militant group launched a surprise military operation against Israel last weekend, killing hundreds of unarmed civilians at a music festival and soldiers near the Gaza border.
More than 500 Pacific islanders, on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem, have been caught in the middle of the conflict.
With a growing list of foreign nationals reportedly killed or kidnapped by Hamas, the Solomon Islands and Fiji governments said their citizens were safe, and Fijians citizens are on their flight back home while Solomon Islands are working with the Israeli authorities to get their citizens home.
There are 170 New Zealanders registered on SafeTravel as being in Israel, and 10 Kiwis in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT)said.
A spokesperson said the ministry is providing “advice and information to New Zealanders in Israel via the SafeTravel website”.
Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has vowed to take “mighty vengeance for this black day”
Church groups from Samoa, Vanuatu, the Cook Islands, Tonga, Fiji and the Solomon Islands joined 3000 pilgrims from 90 nations to celebrate the Feast of the Tabernacles during the Jewish holiday Sukkot last weekend.
The faithful mark 40 years of wandering landless in the desert, back in the time of Moses.
Just over 200 Fijians travelled on a charter flight to Israel three weeks ago for the festival organised by the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem (ICEJ).
Some family members took to social media, saying they feared for the lives of their loved ones “who have been in bomb shelters” since Saturday’s air raids.
Fiji’s government has assured the families, whose relatives are in Israel, that it is working with the authorities in Jerusalem to get their loved ones’ home safely.
Condemning the attacks, Fiji’s Prime Minister, Sitiveni Rabuka, said the situation in the Middle East “has become increasingly volatile”.
“We are deeply saddened by the loss of lives and the suffering endured by both Israelis and Palestinians as a result of the ongoing conflict and bloody battle,” he said in a statement.
“We are in contact with Fijians in Israel and can confirm that they are safe and accounted for.
“We also have a number of peacekeepers there and students studying as well.”
Rabuka, who met Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the United Nations General Assembly in New York last month, said Fiji would open a diplomatic mission in Jerusalem next year.
Papua New Guinea and Australia are the only Pacific Islands Forum members who have embassies in Israel.
Michael Mausio, of the Fiji delegation, posted on his Facebook account that they were “all safe and sound and enjoying the best of the holy land.
“The conflict is in the south and Jerusalem is not affected. It’s business, shopping and sightseeing.
“Our flight back is still scheduled to pick us up at the designated time. Do not worry, we are safe,” he said, followed by a “pray” emoji.
When contacted late on Tuesday, Mausio told Stuff they were on a bus heading to the airport.
The Fijians are scheduled to arrive home on Wednesday afternoon.
The Solomon Islands government said it was also monitoring the situation in the Mideast because 79 of its nationals are in Jerusalem for the annual prayer assembly.
Minister for Agriculture and Livestock, Augustine Auga, said the government gave SBDI$1 million (NZ$200,000) to the group “to help cover travel, accommodation, and other fees associated with the event”.
MP Silas Talota said the group included pastors and youth leaders from Lau/Mbaelelea, Malaita, and the capital, Honiara.
They left the Solomons on 06 October and are scheduled to return home on 20 October.
Netanyahu declared war on Hamas, with increased airstrikes on Gaza and sealing the territory off from food, fuel, and other supplies in retaliation for the “bloody incursion” by Hamas, the Associated Press reported.
Hamas has threatened to kill captured Israelis if the attacks targeted Palestinian civilians without warnings.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas called on the United Nations to “immediately intervene to prevent a humanitarian catastrophe due to Israeli aggression”.
American Samoan delegate Uifa’atali Amata, a member of the U.S House Foreign Affairs Committee, joined the United Nations in denouncing the attacks.
“We must stand together in condemning this lawless violence, and insisting internationally that Hamas stops this attack without delay.
“The people of Israel should not have to face the threat of rockets, explosions and indiscriminate killing.
“Our prayers and thoughts, as well as our nation’s diplomatic efforts and strong support, are with the people of Israel at this time.”
The governments of Tonga, the Cook Islands and Vanuatu are also making arrangements with Israel to get their citizens safely out of Israel.
More than 1500 people, including children, have been killed on both sides of the conflict, with thousands more injured.
Over 180,000 people have been displaced in Gaza, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said on Tuesday.
The UN agency for Palestinian refugees also reported that it was hosting more than 137,000 people in schools across the territory of 2 million.
It said the Israeli airstrikes had hit 790 housing units and severely damaged 5330 homes in the territory of 2.3 million people.
The UN said damage to water, sanitation and hygiene facilities in Gaza has disrupted services for more than 400,000 people.
SOURCE: STUFF NZ/PACNEWS