New Delhi: The first flight with 212 Indian nationals from Israel arrived in New Delhi on Friday under Operation Ajay while the second plane is set to depart from Tel Aviv.
The first charter flight left the Ben Gurion airport on Thursday evening and an infant living in the war-hit region.
The passengers were chosen on a "first come first serve" basis after a drive launched by the Indian embassy for all Indians to register at the mission's database.
The government bore the cost of their return.
The flight, which took off at 22:14 local time, was arranged to facilitate the return of those who were unable to do so because Air India had immediately suspended its flight on the day fighting began on October 7, and its commercial operation remains suspended till now.
"Operation Ajay gets underway. 212 citizens onboard the flight are enroute New Delhi," External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar had said in a post on X.
"The first flight of Operation Ajay carrying 212 Indian nationals has departed from Tel Aviv to Delhi. The Indian embassy in Israel wishes everyone on board a safe journey," the Indian mission posted on X.
There was a long queue of Indians, including students, at the airport to board the special flight being operated under 'Operation Ajay' from Tel Aviv.
Israel has vowed an unprecedented offensive against the Islamic militant group Hamas ruling Gaza after its fighters broke through the border fence and stormed into the country's south through air, land and sea on October 7.
On the sixth day, the Israeli military said more than 1,300 people, including 222 soldiers, were killed in Israel, a staggering toll unseen since the 1973 war with Egypt and Syria that lasted weeks.
In Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip, at least 1,417 people, including women and children, have been killed, according to authorities there.
There was a festive mood among the returnees who raised chants of 'Bharat Mata Ki Jai' and 'Vande Matram' on the flight.
"We are thankful to India. Most of the students were a bit panicked. Suddenly, we saw a notification and the links for every Indian citizen from the embassy of India which boosted our morale," said Shubham Kumar, a student on the flight.
Another student said that things were normal and he was attending his lab as usual in northern Israel but packed his bags after an email from the embassy.
"I couldn't handle the pressure from my family and friends and even though things were quite normal. I am happy to go home but sad to see the problems here," he said.
The Indian embassy had emailed the first lot of registered Indian citizens for the special flight. "Messages to other registered people will follow for subsequent flights", the mission had said in a post on X.
The embassy has already announced a second flight for tomorrow (Friday) and has sent out emails registration to leave on a "first come first serve basis".
On Wednesday, Jaishankar announced the launch of operation Ajay to to facilitate the return of those Indians who wish to come back home.
"Launching #OperationAjay to facilitate the return from Israel of our citizens who wish to return. Special charter flights and other arrangements being put in place," Jaishankar wrote.
"Fully committed to the safety and well-being of our nationals abroad," the external affairs minister said.
Ben Gurion International Airport is the main international airport of Israel. It is situated on the northern outskirts of the city of Lod.
While Israel's retaliatory offensive on Gaza continued unabated, there has been a total lull in rocket attacks coming from Gaza.
No rockets have been fired on Israel between 10 PM on Wednesday and 9 AM on Thursday, with some analysts saying that Hamas is holding its stockpile for "an eventual ground incursion".