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An Australian man rushed out of Israel on-board Qantas’ first mercy flight has spoken about his relief and seeing fellow evacuees “smile for the first time”.

Speaking from Heathrow Airport on Saturday, Blake Jory described his conflicting emotions after making the difficult decision to leave behind his Israeli partner who had been called up to serve in the country’s reserve forces.

“Mate it’s hard to believe I was just in that situation in Israel actually,” he told Channel 9’s Weekend Today.

“It’s very surreal, you know, leaving was a really difficult decision for me to make because my partner is there. I definitely feel some relief. I’m feeling much better, a lot safer.”

Mr Jory was among more than 200 Australians who left Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion Airport on Friday afternoon and arrived in London.

The flight comes as Israel’s military ordered about 1.1 million Palestinian civilians to evacuate northern Gaza within 24 hours ahead of an expected ground invasion.

More than 1600 people, including dual nationals and tourists stuck in the conflict, have registered for repatriation flights including from Gaza and the West Bank.

According to deputy Prime Minister Richard Marles, there are about 10,000 Australian citizens living in Israel, many of which are dual nationals, with most wishing to remain.

Mr Jory said the mood aboard the Qantas flight was “actually really positive”, with many people smiling for the first time since Hamas launched a devastating terror attack on October 7.

“Coming from the conflict in Israel and seeing, you know, these horrible things happen,” he said.

“You know the streets are empty … people are down, people, you know, are not in good moods over there.

“Qantas was making everyone feel really comfortable and they were doing such a good job.”

The Sunshine Coast man, who had been visiting his partner for the past two months, said leaving Israel was a “extremely tough” decision, but one he had made with his partner.

“I’m just praying for her and thinking about her every second,” he said.

“She wants to fight for her country and defend her people. After what happened on Saturday, I don’t blame her.”

A second Qantas flight is scheduled to leave Tel Aviv on route to London on Sunday.

Read related topics:Qantas

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