UPDATE: Biden administration announces plan to evacuate U.S. citizens from Israel

Biden Jewish leaders U.S. President Joe Biden speaks during a roundtable with Jewish community leaders in the Indian Treaty Room of the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, Oct. 11, 2023, in Washington, D.C. | Credit: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

John Kirby, a White House National Security Council spokesman, announced during a Thursday press conference that beginning Friday the U.S. government will begin evacuating U.S. citizens from Israel through charter flights. 

“Beginning tomorrow,” Kirby said, “the United States government will provide charter flights to provide transportation from Israel … to assist U.S. citizens who have, for whatever reason, not been able to provide commercial transit out of the country.” 

Kirby said that the administration is still working through the details of arrangement but that the flights out of Israel will take Americans to Europe. He added that the administration is “exploring other options to expand the capacity of doing this. Including exploring whether it’s possible to help Americans leave by land and by sea.” 

According to Kirby, the administration is aware of American citizens’ “demand” for assistance in getting out of the country and is “going to try the best we can to meet it.” 

This comes as many airlines have canceled flights to and from Israel, and several Republicans and Democrats in Congress strongly urged President Joe Biden to immediately evacuate all Americans in the war-torn country.

Bipartisan lawmakers urge Biden to evacuate Americans in Israel

Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle had urged the Biden administration to immediately evacuate U.S. citizens from Israel.

Rep. Chris Smith, R-New Jersey, said on Tuesday that he has received “many reports from constituents who are U.S. citizens currently in Israel” who “seek to return to the United States as soon as possible but are unable to do so.” 

“I urged the Biden administration to stop wasting time and immediately secure the evacuation of U.S. citizens who are stranded in Israel,” Smith said in a statement. 

A bipartisan group of representatives also called on the State Department in a letter Tuesday to help bring those trapped back to the U.S. 

Rep. Nikki Budzinski, D-Illinois, was among the 12 signers of the letter urging the Biden administration to “use all resources at its disposal, including charter flights, to help those Americans that remain in Israel and wish to return to the United States.” 

She posted on X that her office is “in touch with constituents in Israel and we’re doing all we can to get them home safely.”

While some airlines are still operating flights out of Israel, U.S. air carriers have ceased service to the country until at least the end of the month, according to Politico. 

Smith noted that “many other countries,” including Poland, Romania, and Mexico, have already successfully evacuated “thousands of their own citizens.”

“The Biden administration must act swiftly to catch up for lost time and work around the clock to bring these Americans home,” Smith said in his statement. “The dangers they face are so grave, and the responsibility of the U.S. government for their safety so paramount, that their evacuation must be secured now.”

It is uncertain how many Americans are currently in Israel, but the death toll of U.S. citizens in the country continues to rise. 

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Kirby said the American death toll in Israel has risen to 27.

“I think we all need to steel ourselves for the very real possibility that these numbers will keep increasing and that we find out that in fact more Americans are part of the hostage pool,” Kirby said.

This article was updated on Oct. 12, 2023.

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