India on Wednesday launched an operation to facilitate the return of its citizens from Israel amid the country’s ongoing war with Palestinian militarty group Hamas.

Under the initiative titled Operation Ajay, the government is putting in place special chartered flights and other arrangements for those who want to return to India, External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar said.

The minister added that the government is “fully committed to the safety and well-being of our nationals abroad”.

There are currently about 18,000 Indian citizens in Israel, NDTV reported. On October 7, a woman from Kerala named Sheeja Anandan was injured in a missile strike on the city of Ashkelon in southern Israel. She was working as a caregiver in the West Asian country.

On Wednesday evening, the Indian embassy in Israel said it had emailed the first lot of registered Indian citizens for a special flight slated to take off on Thursday. “Messages to other registered people will follow for subsequent flights,” the embassy said in a social media post on X.

The embassy also announced round-the-clock helpline numbers for Indians in Israel and urged them to remain calm.

Over 2,200 persons have been killed in the war between Israel and Palestinian militants since October 7. In Israel, the death count from an unprecedented cross-border assault by Hamas militants rose to 1,200 while Gaza officials said that 1,055 had been killed as Israel hammered the territory with air strikes.

Militants in Gaza are estimated to have taken about 150 persons from Israel hostage, including soldiers, men, women, children and older adults. Hamas has threatened to kill a hostage every time Israel targets civilians in the Gaza Strip without warning.

Israel declared a complete siege of Gaza, intensified airstrikes and sealed it from water, fuel and power supplies on Monday. The United Nations has said that the war has internally displaces over 1,23,000 people in Gaza due to concerns about their protection and the destruction of homes.

On Wednesday, electricity in the region went out after the sole power station ran out of fuel.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi said on Tuesday that his Israeli counterpart Benjamin Netanyahu called had him and provided an update about the ongoing situation. “People of India stand firmly with Israel in this difficult hour,” Modi said. “India strongly and unequivocally condemns terrorism in all its forms and manifestations.”

On October 9, the Congress Working Committee, on the other hand, reiterated its “long-standing support for the rights of the Palestinian people to land, self-government and to live with dignity and respect”.