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Desantis Orders Florida to Organize Charter Flights for Americans Stranded in Israel

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis on Thursday signed an executive order directing the state to help ferry Americans out of Israel who were left stranded amid the conflict.

DeSantis’ order came just hours after the Biden administration announced it too would arrange charter flights for Americans stuck in Israel, beginning on Friday. Though some airlines are continuing to fly in and out of Israel, many others have stopped service, leaving tourists, foreign workers and Israelis scrambling to find ways out of the country.

White House spokesperson John Kirby said the federal government’s charter flights were ordered partly because of the decision by U.S. airlines not to fly into Israel for the near future.

The Florida governor’s order directs the Florida Division of Emergency Management to charter flights for stranded Florida residents and deliver supplies to Israel, Alecia Collins, a spokesperson for the agency, said. The governor estimates that 20,000 U.S. citizens, including Floridians, remain in Israel.

“This Executive Order will allow the State to carry out logistical, rescue and evacuation operations,” Collins said.

The FAA has recommended caution for pilots flying into and out of Israel but issued no restrictions.

DeSantis’ administration asserts that Americans stranded in Israel have reached out to the Florida governor’s office for help after they failed to receive a response from the U.S. Embassy in Israel. The governor’s executive order also criticizes the Biden administration for failing to make rescue plans, echoing rebukes from DeSantis that the White House has not done enough to help Americans.

“We will not leave our residents behind,” DeSantis said in a social media post.

DeSantis spokesperson Jeremy Redfern wrote in an email that the governor’s office received messages from 35 stranded travelers.

The DeSantis administration was also critical of the U.S. Embassy in Israel and a notification program for overseas travelers, also overseen by the U.S. Department of State, saying the agency has been unreachable for stranded Americans.

The U.S. State Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

DeSantis’ support for Israel goes back to his days in Congress. Since becoming governor, DeSantis has also regularly supported increased security funding in the state budget for Jewish day schools. He even led a trade mission to Israel during his first term as governor in 2019.