Australia has expanded its military presence in the Middle East, deploying additional Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) aircraft and personnel.
While the exact number of deployed personnel remains undisclosed, Australian Defense Minister and Deputy Prime Minister Richard Marles told Sky News in an interview on October 25, 2023, that it is a “significant number”.
The deployment follows the intensification of the conflict in Gaza, which began with a cross-border attack on Israel by the militant group Hamas on October 7, 2023, killing more than 1,400 people and taking more than 200 hostages.
Subsequent events have led to casualties on both sides.
The Hamas-run health ministry in the Gaza Strip reported that at least 5,791 Palestinians have been killed during Israel’s counterattacks since then.
“The point of this is to support Australian populations that are in the Middle East and it’s really a contingency,” Marles said talking with Sky News. “We don’t know exactly how this is going to play out in the Middle East.”
The Australian government has been actively repatriating its citizens stranded in Israel. Since the first Australian government-assisted departure flight from Israel on October 13, more than 800 Australians have been evacuated.
Currently, efforts are underway to rescue 79 Australians stranded in the Gaza Strip.
However, the crisis in the Middle East is not limited to the Israel-Hamas conflict. Australians in Lebanon have also been advised to consider leaving due to recent clashes between Israel and Lebanon’s Hezbollah militant group.