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US to continue Israel charter flights through at least Sunday

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By David Shepardson

WASHINGTON () -The U.S. State Department will continue to offer government-sponsored charter flights to Europe from Tel Aviv to help Americans leave Israel through at least Sunday, a spokesperson said on Tuesday.

The department said about 1,500 U.S. citizens and family members have departed Israel on the charter flights to Athens and other transport options since Friday after offering more than 5,000 seats.

The State Department has said flights have generally departed at half capacity or less. The department had previously only committed to offering charter flights through Thursday.

Some expatriates were leaving Israel following the Oct. 7 assault by Palestinian militant group Hamas on southern Israel that killed 1,300 people. Israel has responded with a bombing campaign on the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip.

A U.S.-chartered Royal Caribbean (NYSE:) ship on Monday left Haifa and arrived in Cyprus. The ship had room for 2,200 people and transported 150 Americans and their immediate family, the department said on Tuesday. The department offered Americans onward transportation to Vienna from Cyprus.

U.S. airlines have added flights to Athens and boosted the size of planes to accommodate Americans flying from Israel seeking to return home.

The State Department said over 3,000 U.S. citizens have also told the department they have successfully left Israel and the West Bank in a variety of ways.

The state of Florida and a nonprofit group partnered to charter a flight and helped 270 more Americans return from Israel, Governor Ron DeSantis said on Monday.

United Airlines, American Airlines (NASDAQ:) and Delta Air Lines (NYSE:) all temporarily halted direct flights to Israel.

More than 30 U.S. lawmakers on Friday wrote the three airline CEOs urging them to resume flights to Tel Aviv “as quickly as possible.”

Deputy Secretary of State Richard Verma told airlines last week the U.S. government had received roughly 17,000 inquiries about travel assistance leaving Israel.

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