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Israel-based organisation evacuates hundreds of Afghans on private flights

Shai Fund said it has flown 300 people out of the country, with two planes still on the runway at Kabul airport
Afghan civilians head towards an aircraft during an evacuation at Hamid Karzai International Airport, Kabul, Afghanistan, on 24 August 2021.
Afghan civilians head towards an aircraft during an evacuation at Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul, on 24 August 2021 (AFP)
By MEE staff in Washington

An Israel-based organisation said it is working to evacuate Afghans on private flights from Kabul airport, ahead of the deadline for the full withdrawal of US forces from the country.

Shai Fund, a humanitarian organisation based in Israel and registered in the US, told Middle East Eye on Wednesday that it was chartering private flights to Kabul airport, and had evacuated 300 people so far.

"We have had one flight so far get out with over 300 persons. Another two flights are on the Tarmac," Charmaine Hedding, an emergency response specialist and president of the group, told MEE in an email.

"We are helping anyone fleeing the Taliban who is at risk."

Hedding said, however, that she could not disclose the transit locations for its flights.

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She added that the US government was playing no role in organising the flights, but given that it controls the airspace, "we have to communicate with them to land the plane and passengers to board".

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A State Department spokesperson said the US was playing no role in facilitating private flights, and advised anyone seeking to leave the country to go through the process set out by the US embassy in Kabul.

"The United States Government has no role in organizing private flights or manifests," the spokesperson told MEE.

The spokesperson added that Washington was not communicating through any third parties and did not "endorse any third parties claiming to provide access" to Kabul airport.

US President Joe Biden and his administration have faced heavy criticism for their handling of the evacuation, which began a day before the Taliban walked into the capital, Kabul, without firing a shot.

Since 14 August, thousands of Afghans have rushed to the capital city's airport in hope of leaving the country, with firefights and violent clashes that have led to the death of one Afghan and the wounding of several others.

The US and its allies have evacuated 82,000 people out of Afghanistan since it began its evacuation, the White House said on Wednesday.

Aid organisations have been scrambling to get as many Afghans as possible out of the country in recent days, with the Wall Street Journal reporting that humanitarian organisations were informed evacuation flights would not continue after Friday, to allow for the US military to remove its own troops and equipment before the 31 August deadline.

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