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HomeworldFlight carrying Americans lands in Florida in evacuation DeSantis approved

Flight carrying Americans lands in Florida in evacuation DeSantis approved

A plane from Israel carrying 270 passengers, nearly all of them American, landed in Tampa, Florida, on Sunday night, after an executive order by Gov Ron DeSantis last week that his administration said enabled state emergency officials to carry out evacuation operations to bring people from Florida and other states home.

The passengers included 91 children, according to Project Dynamo, an international rescue nonprofit that helped organize the flight. Some passengers were from states other than Florida, the group added, and one was from the Czech Republic. They landed shortly before 8 p.m. and were welcomed by DeSantis, who shook their hands. Then they walked to a large tented area that appeared to be set up for a private reception.

Bryan Stern, CEO of Project Dynamo, also greeted the passengers and thanked DeSantis for his help.

DeSantis indicated that seven other evacuated passengers had arrived in Orlando, Florida, and that there would be more flights from Israel carrying as many as 700 to 1,000 Floridians overall. He said many of the evacuees had “no help” and had been unable to get out of Israel on their own.

“The state of Florida stepped up and answered the call,” he said.

It was unclear Sunday what the cost of the flights was and how they were funded. But state officials said that many vendors were involved.

Campaigning for the Republican nomination for president, DeSantis has used the Hamas attacks on Israel to highlight his pro-Israel record. He has also sharply criticized the two men he sees as his main rivals for the White House, President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump.

DeSantis has blamed Biden for providing $6 billion in humanitarian aid to Iran, an ally of Hamas, as part of a prisoner deal and chastised Trump for making critical comments about Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

The flights arranged by DeSantis are another example of his using his executive powers to capitalize on high-profile issues. Over the past year, he has inserted himself into the national immigration debate by flying migrants from the Southern border to Democratic-run areas. He has also removed two progressive prosecutors from their elected offices, saying they were not enforcing state law, at a time when many voters are concerned about crime.

Audiences in the early nominating states where he has campaigned have cheered when DeSantis has recounted those episodes. As he toured New Hampshire and Iowa last week, they also generally responded positively to DeSantis describing his efforts to bring stranded Americans back from Israel.

(Published 16 October 2023, 05:02 IST)

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