U.S. will start charter flights for Americans stuck in Israel

“We’re exploring other options, whether it’s possible to help Americans leave by land and sea,” Kirby said.

Kirby said he did not have “hard figures” of how many Americans want to leave Israel. He noted that 27 Americans were killed and 14 are unaccounted for after Hamas attacked civilians in Israel near Gaza.

Kirby deferred to the State Department when asked if the charter flights would be free of charge, though he said in most previous cases flights were free.

State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller said the charter flights will allow U.S. citizens “to make their own onward travel arrangements to the destination of their choice.” Miller added that the initial transportation options “will be augmented in the coming days” and that the initial charter flight options will facilitate the departure of “thousands of U.S. citizens per week.”

Kirby added that getting Americans out presents a challenge because of the large number of U.S. citizens in Israel. He noted that U.S. citizens aren’t required to notify the U.S. government of their travel plans. He said the charter flights were ordered, in part, because of the decision by U.S. airlines not to fly into Israel for the foreseeable future.

“We realized that as the situation evolved that more and more Americans are desiring to leave,” Kirby said.

Kirby said there isn’t any way to get Americans out of Gaza right now due to Israel’s blockade, though he said the U.S. government would support a means of safe passage for Americans wishing to leave and then facilitating potential travel once they are out of Gaza.

“We have no physical means of getting that travel out,” Kirby said of U.S. citizens in Gaza. “If there’s onward travel they might need we might be in a position to be more physically involved.”

Lawmakers from both parties this week called on the Biden administration to run charter flights as well as potentially a military airlift.

“As the number of casualties continues to rise, our constituents who remain in Israel fear for their lives,” the group of lawmakers wrote. “We ask that you consider charter flights and military options for evacuation, simultaneously.”

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