COLUMBIA, Mo. (KMIZ)
Several members of a Moberly church are stuck in Israel after armed conflict caused flights to be canceled.
Brian Garman is not in Israel, but several members of his church, including the lead pastor, are stuck. Some of his fellow parishioners were able to get back on U.S. soil Wednesday, at least eight people from Gospel Tabernacle of Moberly are still stuck in Israel. Garman said they've working with the embassy and Sen. Josh Hawley's office to try to get home.
"Everything keeps falling through and getting out, it's starting to get a little worrisome," Garman said. "It seems to be narrowing down, you know, just the flights being canceled. Two of the group got out today."
In addition, 42 members of a St. Louis-area church called Morning Star Church were on a Holy Lands tour in Israel when war struck out.
Sen. Eric Schmitt and his office staff have been helping to get them home, and say today at least 10 are back on U.S. soil. Schmitt's office tells ABC 17 the rest have scheduled flights and should return by Saturday.
A group of 61 parishioners from the Newman Center in Columbia got back to the United States just 40 hours before the war broke out, Fr. Dan Merz told ABC 17.
The Forum Christian Church in Columbia told ABC 17 it was planning to send a group on tours of Israel soon. They still plan to go although the trip may be pushed back.
Flights to and from the area have been canceled and the U.S. State Department issued a "do not travel" advisory to Gaza and an "Exercise Increased Caution When Traveling" advisory for Israel and the West Bank. The State Department cites terrorism, civil unrest and armed conflict.
According to the Associated Press, the combined death toll is more than 2.200, which included a woman from Boone County. Fighting began over the weekend after Hamas militants launched an attack on Israel and the country declared war. The Associated Press reported 22 of the people killed in the region were Americans, with another 17 unaccounted.
Missouri Sens. Josh Hawley and Eric Schmitt are offering resources to any Missourians stranded. In the letter, Hawley said his office has been contacted by multiple Missourians trying to return home but with no means of transportation.
In a letter to Secretary of State Anthony Blinken on Wednesday, Hawley urges the secretary to make a plan to return U.S. citizens to their homes.
"Today your office informed mine that the State Department 'continues to encourage U.S. citizens to look at the available commercial options to depart Israel.' While I appreciate the initial information provided on Sunday to help my constituents contact the U.S. Embassy, this is no longer sufficient," the letter reads.
"We lost 22 Americans. That number could still go up and it probably will. At the same time, we have a number of Americans who remain unaccounted. We are working very closely with the government of Israel to determine their whereabouts and if they have been taken hostage by Hamas to work to secure their release," Blinken said as he boarded a plane to Israel Wednesday.