India on Thursday made it clear that in case of Palestine, it has always advocated resumption of direct negotiations for its peaceful coexistence with Israel, even as it sees the conflict in Israel as a terror attack.
"We have been very clear that we see it as a terrorist attack. As far as Palestine is concerned, India has advocated the resumption of direct negotiations towards establishing the sovereign, independent and viable state of Palestine living within secure and recognised border side by side with Israel," said External Affairs Ministry spokesperson, Arindam Bagchi.
Addressing a flurry of questions on the Israel-Palestine conflict, which got escalated last week after the Hamas group launched rocket attacks on Tel Aviv, Bagchi said that government's prime focus is to bring back 18,000 Indians stuck there.
"Our focus is to bring back Indians who want to come out of Israel. There are 18,000 Indians there, including students," he said, informing that the government has launched Operation Ajay to bring back Indian citizens from war-torn Israel.
"Yesterday, Operation Ajay was launched to facilitate our citizens who wish to come back. The first flight will reach Tel Aviv tonight and is likely to reach India tomorrow (Friday) with 230 people," Bagchi informed.
The spokesperson also informed that there are no casualties among Indians stuck in Israel, though one person has been injured.
"We are aware of one Indian who was injured. The person is in hospital. Thankfully, we have not heard of any Indian casualty," he informed.
To questions on Indians stuck in Palestine, Bagchi said, "My understanding is that about a dozen-odd people are there in West Bank while 3-4 people are there in Gaza. The number is very small. Mostly, we have received requests (to rescue) from Israel."
Meanwhile, the Indian Air Force has kept its aircraft on stand-by in case there is a requirement to bring back Indian citizens from Israel, reports quoting IAF officials said.
The IAF transport aircraft fleet includes the C-17 and IL-76 heavy-lift transport planes along with the C-130J Super Hercules Special Operations aircraft which have been used in the past for such evacuation operations, they added.
Replying to questions on reports saying that External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar is learnt to have met his Canadian counterpart, Bagchi said, "We have been in touch with Canadians at various levels, but we do not have any specific information regarding any particular interaction."
To a question on Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau raising the issue of his country's relations with India with other world leaders, Bagchi said, "We don't know really how will it help address the core issue of Canada giving space to terrorists and criminal elements.
"We would urge Canada to take more seriously their international obligations to provide security to our diplomats in their premises."