In the wake of criticism from certain corners that President Joe Biden was not doing enough to help U.S. citizens get out of Israel amid its conflict with Hamas, his administration confirmed on Friday that the first State-Department-organized charter flight carrying Americans out of the war-torn country landed in Athens, Greece, as Reuters reports.
Attempting to provide reassurance that the federal government was working for the benefit of those potentially stranded in Israel as hostilities escalate, White House spokesperson John Kirby said, “We're just trying to add to the options” and noted that more such flights were on the immediate horizon.
The Friday flight that landed in Greece was the first of what is expected to be a series of similar opportunities for Americans to make their way out of Israel ahead of what is anticipated to be a protracted ground invasion of Gaza and, potentially, a broader regional conflict.
As The Hill explained, the State Department-involved flights are meant for American citizens as well as members of their immediate families.
The flights will collect interested Americans in Israel and transport them to various sites in Europe, according to the outlet.
Thus far, additional charters have been slated to run between Tel Aviv and Athens through Oct. 19, at the latest, with multiple commercial carriers revealing plans to add flights from Greece to the United States to help more Americans make their way stateside.
According to Haaretz, Americans interested in evacuating from Israel by sea, were given an option to depart on Monday from the port at Haifa.
A representative from the American embassy in Israel stated that travel aboard the ship bound for Cyprus is limited to “U.S. nationals and their immediate family members with a valid travel document.”
Haaretz pointed out that departure via Haifa is not being provided at no cost, and those who decided to take advantage of the offer of transportation will need to sign promissory documents guaranteeing that the U.S. government will be repaid.
Further, those who avail themselves of the sea option will be required to arrange for their own accommodations upon reaching Cyprus, and their journey to the departure site itself must be made at the travelers' own risk.
The administration's decision to step up its efforts to evacuate Americans wishing to leave Israel comes on the heels of intense criticism from those who claimed that Biden had “no plan” for bringing U.S. citizens home after the initiation of conflict.
Rep. Cory Mills (R-FL) was particularly vocal in his frustration, and he took it upon himself to head to Israel to facilitate travel for dozens of stranded Americans, as Newsweek reported.
“I knew that they had no plan, no strategy, that they were gonna leave Americans behind, but I had to put the pressure on them, and that's why it was such a big deal to go over there,” Mills said.
The GOP congressman suggested that his actions prompted action – albeit belated – from the administration, saying, “It's really forced the hand of the White House to start stepping up. As I said multiple times, if Biden was unable and unwilling to do his job, then I'm gonna step up and do it for him.”