The Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Czech Republic Jan Lipavský from Pirates said yesterday that Czech diplomacy is in contact with eleven people who are interested in evacuation from the Gaza Strip. Eight of them are known to have Czech citizenship. I know Gaza is not under your embassy jurisdiction, but do you have any details on that?
As you say, it’s not in my jurisdiction. It falls under the jurisdiction of colleagues from the liaison office in Ramallah. However, we are in constant contact so I have some details. These are members of three Czech-Palestinian families who contacted us, and we know about them.
Interview with the Czech ambassador Veronika Kuchyňová Šmigolová
The procedure for leaving the Gaza Strip is quite complicated. First, the authorities on the Israeli side are requested, then on the Egyptian side together with the Israeli approval. Furthermore, the person concerned must get to the right place at the right time, which is the Rafáh border crossing.
Unfortunately, in the current situation, Hamas is blocking the exit from Gaza. He uses people with dual citizenship and foreign nationals as easy hostages and does not want to allow the majority to leave the Gaza Strip.
Our legal office in Ramallah is in contact with those families and is trying to arrange permits for them to leave the Gaza Strip, and some have succeeded. At the moment, I don’t know if anyone managed to leave. However, on the other side, representatives of our embassy in Cairo are waiting for them, who will take care of them afterwards.
And what about Czech citizens directly in Israel a month later? If I say so, do they still contact your embassy?
They are not contacting us at this time. Those who needed to leave were able to do so either by evacuation flights or by using the routes of the El Al company, which is still operating. So, from this point of view, I feel that the situation has generally stabilized.
And if we imagine that Veronika Kuchyňová Šmigolová goes out into the street and forgets for a moment that she is the ambassador of the Czech Republic, what does she see there?
When I go out of Tel Aviv, I see a pretty normal life. I see people going to work, going shopping. There are a lot more Israeli flags here than has been the norm lately.
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I see different slogans to support the army, and at the same time the routes to shelters in the city are more clearly shown. But otherwise I wouldn’t have recognized that there was a war at first glance.
If someone from the Czech Republic is going to Israel now, what security measures apply and what do you recommend?
We still recommend that Czech citizens travel to Israel only in necessary cases. If someone is in a situation where they have to come here, we recommend that they download one of the applications after their arrival that alerts them to the possible arrival of rockets from the Gaza Strip.
Those apps are very accurate and work well. He should find out if there are shelters near where he lives and how to get to them. In general, he should obey the instructions of the so-called “home command” or civil defense. And also, of course, that he does not move in the direct vicinity of the Gaza Strip or the northern border with Lebanon.
Jan Pokorný, trs
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