Two Airzena Planes Pick Up Israelis Stranded in Georgia

Airzena Georgian Airways operated two flights last night from Tbilisi to Ben-Gurion International Airport - one flight landed at 9 P.M. and the other was set to touch down at 1 A.M. today.

Airzena CEO Tango Simon told Haaretz that the two flights, on 737s, were completely full, with about 120 passengers on each flight, mainly tourists and businessmen.

There were 70 passengers on the return flight from Ben-Gurion to Tbilisi, about half the number of ticket holders. The rest of the passengers had canceled their ticket.

On the second flight back to Tbilisi, Airzena was to fly humanitarian aid only, with no passengers scheduled to be onboard.

The landing in Tbilisi yesterday of two El Al planes sent to evacuate Israelis from Georgia was coordinated with Russia, so Russian fighter jets would not harm the planes or interfere with the landing, Haaretz has learned.

The government chartered the flights from El Al Israel Airlines at a cost between $70,000 and $80,000 per flight.

The decision to evacuate the Israelis on special El Al flights was made around midnight Monday, after it became clear that overland evacuations via neighboring countries like Azerbaijan, Armenia or Turkey - followed by special flights on Arkia - were not practical.

On the second flight back to Tbilisi, the Health Ministry was to fly 2.5 tons of medical equipment including bandages and other battlefield medical gear to Tbilisi.

The Health Ministry said yesterday that the shipment of the equipment followed a request from the Foreign Ministry.

Army Radio reported yesterday that over the past few days, around 60 Jewish families in Georgia have approached Jewish Agency representatives for help in moving to Israel.