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Thousands of Americans stranded in Israel evacuated by cruise ship

Thousands of Americans fleeing the war in Israel raced to board a cruise ship Monday that would take them to neighboring Cyprus.

The US Embassy in Israel announced the evacuation plan Sunday, offering the 2,500 Americans and their immediate family members still in Israel a chance to leave by sea.

The move comes as the Israeli military is preparing for an all-out ground assault on Gaza in retaliation for last week’s deadly attacks by Hamas that killed at least 1,400 people, including at least 29 Americans.

The cruise ship line Royal Caribbean stepped in to help after commercial airlines mostly stopped flying into Israel’s Ben-Gurion International Airport, making it extremely difficult to get out of the country.

US citizens, among them babies and young children, desperate to flee the escalating hostilities in the region headed to the port city of Haifa in the early hours, hoping to score a space on the Royal Caribbean cruise ship Rhapsody of the Seas that would whisk them to safety.

Boarding got underway at 8 a.m. local time and was available on a first-come, first-served basis, according to embassy officials.

Evacuee Idella Schatzberg was leaving for Cyprus with her two tots in tow. Her husband was staying behind for the time being, but hoping to rejoin the family in Dallas by Wednesday, she told ABC News.

2005: Israel unilaterally withdraws from the Gaza Strip over three decades after winning the territory from Egypt in the Six-Day War.

2006: Terrorist group Hamas wins a Palestinian legislative election.

2007: Hamas seizes control of Gaza in a civil war.

2008: Israel launches military offensive against Gaza after Palestinian terrorists fired rockets into the town of Sderot.

2023: Hamas launches the biggest attack on Israel in 50 years.

Over 1,400 Israelis are dead, more than 3,500 are wounded and at least 100 were taken hostage, with the death toll expected to rise after Hamas terrorists fired thousands of rockets and sent dozens of militants into Israeli towns.

2023: Hamas launches the biggest attack on Israel in 50 years.

Hamas terrorists were seen taking female hostages and parading them down the street in horrifying videos.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced “We are at war” and vowed Hamas would pay “a price it has never known.”

Gaza health officials report at least 2,750 Palestinians have been killed and more than 9,700 injured.

“I’m constantly on edge, and I can’t do that to my kids,” said the mom. “I can’t let them live like this.”

The passage from Haifa to Limassol Port in Cyprus was expected to take between 10 and 12 hours, with food and internet service available to passengers on board.

In Cyprus, American evacuees will be able to board commercial flights to take them the rest of the way home.

The US State Department said that in addition to the ship, chartered flights from Israel will be available for American citizens on Monday and Tuesday.

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