The United States is launching an airlift of charter flights to get thousands of Americans out of Israel to prevent rocket attacks by the Palestinian terror group Hamas.
Commercial airlines will deliver the planes starting Friday, but Americans wanting to fly will only be taken as far as Europe.
It came after Biden came under pressure to follow the example of other countries, including Britain, which are flying their citizens home.
U.S. officials estimate that there are 160,000 to 170,000 Americans in Israel, as residents and tourists. or in other capacities.
There will be at least four charter flights a day taking Americans out of the country.
The US Embassy in Israel said: ‘It will take some time to schedule everyone who wants to leave. Transport takes place by air to Athens or Frankfurt, or by sea from Haifa to Cyprus. You can’t choose your destination; we will assign you to the next available flight or ship.
‘You must be prepared to leave within 8 to 12 hours of receiving your booking. Each traveler is allowed to take one small carry-on baggage of up to 10 kg and one suitcase of up to 16 kg, the embassy said.
White House national security spokesman John Kirby said: “The president has asked his team to ensure that we assist American citizens who want to leave Israel and provide them with a safe way to do so.”
The Biden administration is organizing charter flights and sea trips that will transport Americans from Israel, which remains under rocket bombardment by Hamas as it gathers troops on the Gaza border.
Kirby said the government is still “working through the details” to help U.S. citizens and their “immediate family members” who have been unable to find commercial transportation.
He mentioned ways to get Americans out “by land and sea.”
The announcement comes as Israel remains under daily rocket fire from Gaza, while several other countries have begun flying flights to bring their people home.
American, Delta and United airlines are among those that have suspended flights to Israel’s Ben Gurion Airport outside Tel Aviv, leaving Americans and other foreigners struggling to leave the country.
House Rep. Mike Lawler (R-N.Y.) is among those pushing the administration to organize an airlift to bring home Americans and dual nationals who want to return to the U.S.
“You already see other governments, including Poland, sending military planes to get their citizens out of Israel, given the war. And I think we need to take every measure to get people home as quickly as possible, whether between commercial flights or military aircraft,” he said.
President Biden is under pressure to organize an airlift to get Americans and dual citizens out of Israel, amid continued rocket attacks and a rising death toll following Saturday’s Hamas attack
In addition to Poland, Britain, France and Germany are among the countries organizing flights home.
A Portuguese military transport C-130 transported 160 foreigners stuck in Israel to Cyprus.
“This is going to escalate very quickly,” he told CNN. “And I stand 100 percent shoulder to shoulder with Israel and Prime Minister Netanyahu. They must eliminate Hamas, they must destroy them. They are a terrorist organization determined to wipe Israel off the face of the earth, sponsored and supported by Iran. And we must take this threat seriously.”
At the White House on Wednesday, national security spokesman John Kirby said there were still commercial flights and “viable ground routes,” while hinting at “active conversations” about organizing a way out.
“The State Department is actively engaging with American citizens in Israel – many of whom, as you know, have dual citizenship – to try to make sure that a) we have the connection, and b) that we know if they are worried about leaving,” he said.
“I think we need to take every action to get people home as quickly as possible,” Rep. Mike Lawler (R-N.Y.) said.
‘So we are actively talking to Americans there. Right now, there are still commercial airlines – not all, some – flying in and out of Ben Gurion every day. There are still viable ground routes now. “If you want to leave Israel safely, that is an option for you too,” he said.
“But none of these options are necessarily feasible or affordable for certain Americans. And so we’re actively exploring a range of other options to help if Americans want to leave. I just don’t have the freedom to go into that in depth right now.’
The administration has not yet reserved plans to activate the Civil Reserve Air Fleet program, under which the Pentagon organizes private airlines to ferry Americans home during a security crisis. The program was used during the frenzied American withdrawal from Afghanistan.
Meanwhile, the Americans remain trapped in Gaza, while Israel has amassed a 300,000-strong reserve force on the border amid a possible ground invasion.
The government says it is working to establish a possible humanitarian corridor so civilians can leave, but there are huge logistical challenges.