October 17, 2023
TOKYO – Japanese nationals evacuated from Israel on a South Korean military transport plane have arrived at a hotel in Incheon, a suburb of Seoul. They spoke of the tense situation in the region and their fears while leaving.
“I’m relieved,” said Satsuki Osokin, 35, a volleyball player who evacuated with her husband and 5-year-old son. The family lived in Ashdod, central Israel, about 25 kilometers north of the Gaza Strip, which is effectively controlled by Hamas.
Air raid sirens sounded repeatedly in Ashdod on Oct. 7, when Hamas began attacking Israeli territory with rockets and other weapons. Each time the sirens went off, the family evacuated from their third-floor room to a shelter on the first floor.
Osokin’s son was frightened, unable to understand what was happening.
Worried that things would get worse, the Osokin family moved into an acquaintance’s house in Tel Aviv the next day and boarded a South Korean military transport plane at the Tel Aviv airport early Saturday morning. Osokin said she heard frequent explosions around the airport.
Osokin said she was most fearful when the plane was about to take off, worried it would become a target of an attack.
The passengers on board held hands and prayed for a safe takeoff, according to Osokin. When the transport plane reached a safe altitude, the cabin was filled with applause.
“I finally felt relieved that everything was going to be okay,” she said.
There were 51 Japanese nationals on board the transport plane, including the Osokin family, as well as 163 South Koreans and six Singaporeans.
The transport plane landed at a military airport near Seoul late Saturday night. The Japanese passengers then boarded two buses and traveled to a hotel arranged by the Japanese Embassy near Incheon Airport.