Scores of United States citizens evacuated Israel by ship on Monday, seeking to leave the country as the war against Hamas continues.
The rare civilian evacuation by sea, which was organized by the US Embassy in Israel, came as foreign airlines canceled flights to and from Israel due to the Arab rocket fire.
The U.S. vessel is taking the Americans to neighboring Cyprus, where they can board flights to the United States. The passengers were required to sign a document saying they would reimburse the U.S. government, American officials said, although that fee may be waived in the future in light of the emergency situation.
Israeli carriers El Al (and its Sun D’Or unit), Israir and Arkia have added flights.
According to the Secret Flights website, Air Serbia, Bluebird Airways, Ethiopian Airlines, Etihad Airways, FlyDubai, Georgian Airlines and Hainan Airlines continue to operate routes to Israel.
This week, U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin ordered the USS Eisenhower Carrier Strike Group deployed to the Eastern Mediterranean.
The announcement came just after Austin completed his visit to Israel where he met with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Yoav Gallant.
In a statement, Austin said that this is being done “as part of our effort to deter hostile actions against Israel or any efforts towards widening this war following Hamas’s attack on Israel.”
The Strike Group includes the guided-missile cruiser USS Philippine Sea, guided-missile destroyers USS Gravely and USS Mason, and Carrier Air Wing 3, with nine aircraft squadrons, and embarked headquarters staffs.
The Eisenhower CSG will join the USS Gerald R. Ford Carrier Strike Group, which arrived earlier this week. The Ford CSG includes the USS Normandy, USS Thomas Hudner, USS Ramage, USS Carney and USS Roosevelt.
Last week, the U.S. Air Force announced deployment to the region of squadrons of F-15, F-16 and A-10 fighter aircraft.
“The increases to U.S. force posture signal the United States’ ironclad commitment to Israel’s security and our resolve to deter any state or non-state actor seeking to escalate this war,” said Austin.