As part of the executive order Florida Governor Ron DeSantis (R) issued last week authorising the rescue of Floridians in Israel amid the country’s conflict with Palestinian militant group Hamas, the first aeroplane bringing Americans from Israel arrived in Florida on Sunday.
According to DeSantis’ office, about 300 American evacuees who were unable to depart Israel due to cancelled commercial flights arrived in Florida on Sunday. The governor’s office reported that more than 270 people arrived in Tampa and seven more in Orlando and received assistance from various state agencies.
“Today we welcomed nearly 300 Americans who have been in Israel since last week, when the violent attacks by Hamas terrorists began,” DeSantis wrote Sunday in a post on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter.
Project Dynamo, a non-profit organization focused on the evacuation of Americans, assisted in the rescue efforts.
The Florida Division of Emergency Management is expected to lead additional flights to take additional supplies to Israel and bring Floridians back home.
The Florida governor’s office also announced it is sending medical supplies, hygiene products, clothing and children’s toys to Israel for those impacted by the violence.
DeSantis, who is also running in the 2024 Republican presidential primary race, has repeatedly condemned Hamas’s attacks on Israel, as have other American lawmakers, world leaders and groups. The attacks have claimed the lives of over 1,400 Israelis, the vast majority of whom died in the militant group’s initial surprise assaults on Israeli villages, farms and military outposts on Oct. 7
Israel promptly began a significant counteroffensive against Hamas, which governs Gaza, and has since carried out hundreds of airstrikes there. Numerous thousands of Palestinians were compelled to flee their homes and seek refuge due to the airstrikes.
The Gaza Health Ministry reported on Sunday that there had been at least 2,670 Palestinian fatalities and 9,600 more injuries as a result of the fighting. The number of fatalities has surpassed that of the more than six-week-long Gaza war in 2014. For both sides, it is the deadliest of the five Gaza wars.
Israel’s blockade on Gaza’s access to food, water, and medical supplies exacerbates the issue. Almost half of Gaza’s population, or over 1.1 million people, were also instructed to leave the territory last Friday by Israeli soldiers in preparation for the region’s anticipated ground invasion.
Humanitarian organisations like the World Health Organisation (WHO) have harshly denounced Israel’s siege and evacuation orders, calling them “a death sentence” for the ill and injured.
On Sunday, DeSantis made a statement regarding Israel’s offensive, claiming it was “not collective punishment” for the 2.3 million Palestinians who reside in the Gaza Strip.
Asked on CBS News’s “Face the Nation” if collective punishment is something he supports, DeSantis said, “It’s not collective punishment. Hamas is the one that is creating this predicament. Hamas is the one who always uses civilian targets to conduct operations.”
Over the weekend, DeSantis received some blowback over remarks he made on the campaign trail in which he called all Palestinians in Gaza “anti-Semitic.”
DeSantis on Saturday argued the U.S. shouldn’t take in any Palestinian refugees fleeing from Gaza or any Palestinian Arabs. Pressed over the comment on Sunday, DeSantis said, “Those [in] Gaza are refugees; Palestinian Arabs should go to Arab countries.”
DeSantis also argued during the “Face the Nation” interview that the Gaza Strip’s education system teaches “kids to hate Jews” and that importing large numbers of refugees would “increase anti-Semitism” and “anti-Americanism” in the U.S.
Today, we welcomed nearly 300 Americans who have been in Israel since last week, when the violent attacks by Hamas terrorists began.
Thanks to @Project_Dynamo1 for helping get them all the way home safely. pic.twitter.com/ISBlaqKtA7
— Ron DeSantis (@GovRonDeSantis) October 16, 2023