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First chartered flight departs Israel, lands in Athens with U.S. citizens

The first U.S. flight taking Americans out of Israel landed in Athens, Greece on Friday, a White House official confirmed with Reuters.

The State Department announced Thursday it would be arranging to charter flights for U.S. citizens looking to return to America to escape the war between Israel and Hamas.  

The flights are for American citizens and their immediate family members and will transport people to sites in Europe. White House spokesperson John Kirby told reporters that the government is looking at sea travel options as well.

Other charter flights have been scheduled between Athens and Tel Aviv through at least Oct. 19, a source told Reuters. A separate source told Reuters that more than 400 Americans were signed up for the first flight that took off Friday, but the number “includes an assumption that some would not turn up for the flight.”

Several airlines have already announced flights from Athens to the United States to help bring people back to the U.S.

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy (D) posted online that he spoke with Scott Kirby, the CEO of United Airlines, about their plans to add multiple flights in the next several days from Athens to Newark International Airport to bring U.S. citizens back.

Reuters reported that Delta Air Lines said it would also add flights to Athens in the coming days. American Airlines said they have seats available for people catching connecting flights in Europe from Israel.

Congresswoman Grace Meng (D-N.Y.) wrote a letter to President Biden thanking him for agreeing to charter flights to help U.S. citizens leave Israel. She said constituents have reached out to her office seeking assistance to leave the country.

Meng first sent a letter Monday to Secretary of State Antony Blinken asking him to use all available resources to help Americans return from Israel amid the Israel-Hamas war. She sent a second letter Tuesday with Rep. Nicole Malliotakis (R-N.Y.) asking the government to bring back Americans in Israel. On Thursday Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-Fla.) announced he had signed an executive order for the rescue operations of Floridians in Israel.

The State Department posted Friday that U.S. citizens in need of assistance should complete a crisis intake form. The department said it would have more to share in the coming days and will provide travel updates to citizens who have filled out the form.

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