Gov. Ron DeSantis Issues Update on Israel Rescue Operation, Nearly 700 Americans Flown Back to Florida from Israel

Governor Ron DeSantis issued updates on the State of Florida’s Israel Rescue Operation. As of today, nearly 700 Americans have been flown back to Florida on four flights and received supportive resources made available by several Florida state agencies and volunteer organizations. (Fox 13 Image)

TALLAHASSEE, FLORIDA – Governor Ron DeSantis issued updates on the State of Florida’s Israel Rescue Operation. As of today, nearly 700 Americans have been flown back to Florida on four flights and received supportive resources made available by several Florida state agencies and volunteer organizations.

A Multi Agency Resource Center (MARC) was established at the Tampa International Airport to receive passengers returning to the United States from Israel, and the MARC supported all identified unmet needs and coordinated state resources and nonprofit support.

Additionally, two cargo planes carrying 85 pallets of donated supplies have arrived in Tel-Aviv, Israel.

These goods were requested by hospitals and other government agencies in Israel and were sent through the collaboration of Florida hospitals, local communities, the Agency for Health Care Administration, Florida Division of Emergency Management and various Israeli partners.

On October 10, 2023, Governor DeSantis announced a legislative proposal to strengthen sanctions on Iran to ensure Florida does not do business with companies aligned with Iran that could in turn fund Hamas and other terrorist groups.

On October 12, 2023, Governor DeSantis issued Executive Order 23-208 allowing the State of Florida to carry out logistical, rescue and evacuation operations for Florida residents seeking transportation back to Florida and provide necessary law enforcement support for Jewish communities in Florida.

On October 20, 2023, Governor DeSantis worked with legislative leaders who formally called a Special Session of the Florida Legislature to address the Governor’s Iran sanctions-related proposal and which will also include additional resources for Hurricane Idalia relief, lowering the costs of homeowners’ insurance, increasing access to school choice for students with unique abilities and additional protections for Florida’s Jewish communities. The Special Session will convene at 10:00 a.m. on Monday, November 6, and will extend no later than 11:59 p.m. on Thursday, November 9.

Logistical Rescue Operations Support:

  • The Florida Division of Emergency Management (FDEM) worked with Project Dynamo to identify U.S. citizens in Israel who needed transportation home to Florida.
  • FDEM is working to collect donations of supplies to send to Israel, including 85 pallets of bandages, hospital gowns, IV kits, needles and syringes, ventilators and comfort items for children.
  • The Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) provided 24-hour ground field personnel to support ongoing preparation efforts for incoming flights and the processing of passengers through U.S. Customs and Border Patrol and USDA inspections, and FDOT and the Department of Children and Families established an offsite Family Reunification Center.
  • FDOT deployed staff from Tallahassee to Tampa to coordinate and receive 270 passengers late Sunday, October 15, 47 new passengers who arrived the morning of Wednesday, October 18, an additional 243 passengers in the early hours of Thursday, October 19, and 118 passengers early Monday, October 23. FDEM and FDOT also coordinated with Orlando International Airport (MCO) for a flight of seven passengers to Orlando on October 15 and other individual commercial flights.
  • The Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles has provided full licensing services to over 30 returning Floridians through the Florida Licensing on Wheels (FLOW) vehicle.
  • The Florida Division of Law Enforcement (FLDE) assisted with the coordination of incoming flights from Israel, providing logistical and operational information including takeoff and landing locations.

Public Safety:

  • Since October 8, Florida Highway Patrol (FHP) Quick Reaction Force (QRF) troopers and nearly 100 FDLE agents and crime intelligence analysts have worked daily – nearly statewide from Miami-Dade to Escambia counties – to support public safety following the Hamas attacks, including safeguarding synagogues, Jewish Day Schools and Florida’s sizable Jewish community by monitoring events and investigating suspicious activity reports.
  • All sworn FHP members were provided information concerning House Bill (HB) 269 – Public Nuisances for situational awareness regarding public demonstrations related to the attacks on Israel.
  • On October 9, 2023, State University System Chancellor Ray Rodrigues and Florida Department of Education Commissioner Manny Diaz sent a memorandum to all 12 state universities and 28 state colleges detailing Florida’s statutory requirements for the protection of Jewish people, including students, from threats, harassment and other antisemitic behaviors.
  • On October 9, Attorney General Ashley Moody, FHP Executive Director Dave Kerner and FDLE Commissioner Mark Glass sent a joint letter to sheriffs and state attorneys detailing Florida’s statutory requirements for the protection of Jewish people from threats, harassment and other antisemitic behaviors.
  • On October 12, Lt. Governor Jeanette Nuñez, FDLE Commissioner Mark Glass, FHP Executive Director Dave Kerner and other state leaders conducted a briefing call with Florida Sheriffs from around the state.
  • On October 13, State University System Chancellor Ray Rodrigues conducted a call with the 12 state university presidents to discuss campus security and any incidents that may warrant formal investigations.
  • FHP continues to work with external law enforcement partners and the intelligence community to ensure FHP is prepared to maintain law and order and protect communities and citizens throughout Florida.
  • FDLE regions are operating Regional Law Enforcement Coordination Teams (RLECT) to provide situational information to law enforcement across Florida and identify all state assets available in an emergency.
  • All FDLE regional offices are working with Florida’s Regional Domestic Security Task Forces to support public safety.
  • The following list of arrests, which are associated with the current emergency, was provided by FHP and may not be all inclusive:
  • October 17, 2023, an individual was seen acting suspiciously around the Capitol Complex in Tallahassee. The individual was seen exiting a black sedan, putting on a white hard hat, and walking through the “Construction Only” area at the Capitol Complex. This individual is referenced in several law enforcement encounters out of Broward County including domestic disturbances and altercations, leaving harassing messages with local seated public officials and acting suspiciously outside of synagogues. In 2021, it was reported that this individual was encountered outside of a local synagogue dressed in a tactical vest and acting suspiciously. The individual was arrested for trespassing at a state facility.
  • October 17, 2023, Miami Beach Police Department arrested an individual who told a security guard that he was a member of Hamas and that he was attempting to bomb a Jewish school in Miami Beach. He was charged with harassment, assault, disturbing school/religious assemblies and threatening to discharge a bomb.
  • October 17, 2023, four individuals were arrested at the “Stop the Genocide Against the People of Gaza” event at the Coral Gables office of Senator Rick Scott. The individuals were arrested for trespassing by standing and blocking the entrance of the building.
  • October 17, 2023, Jupiter Police Department charged a homeless individual with criminal mischief for scratching swastikas in the sidewalks along Indiantown Road and Military Trail in Abacoa.
  • October 13, 2023, CBS News Miami reported that an individual was arrested for resisting an officer without violence at the “Protest for Palestine” event at Miami Bayfront Park.
  • October 13, 2023, CBS News Miami reported that a Miami man was arrested for threatening to kill hundreds of people in a building or at a concert if he didn’t receive Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and Central Intelligence Agency protection from Jewish people. He was arrested by the FBI Joint Terrorism Task Force and the City of Miami Police Department for making threats and extortion.
  • October 11, 2023, Miami-Dade Police Department arrested three (3) individuals at the “Protest for Palestine” demonstration at the Florida Atlantic University (FAU), Boca Raton Campus. One of the individuals, a 19-year-old FAU student, was arrested on a felony battery charge after she elbowed a pro-Israeli woman. The other two were arrested for battery, resisting arrest and disorderly conduct.

Reintegration Services

  • The Florida Department of Children and Families (DCF) is providing crisis counseling services at the Multi-Agency Resource Center and linking individuals requesting follow up services/support with local resources.

Unmet Needs and Support:

  • On October 20, First Lady Casey DeSantis held a roundtable at Mt. Sinai Medical Center to discuss ongoing efforts to support Israel and make awards through the Volunteer Florida Foundation and Hope Florida Fund to support organizations that are providing services to the Israeli and Jewish communities in the state. At the event, the First Lady highlighted health care supply donations for Israel that have been made by Florida medical providers.
  • First Lady DeSantis also highlighted the flights that the state has coordinated to bring Americans home from Israel.
  • These flights have been done in partnership with Project Dynamo, a veteran-led nonprofit based out of Tampa that has supported rescue and evacuation efforts both domestically following Hurricane Ian and abroad, to bring Americans home from Israel.
  • To support Project Dynamo’s continued work, the Volunteer Florida Foundation is awarding $1,000,000 to the organization.
  • The Florida Voluntary Organizations Active in a Disaster (FLVOAD) has coordinated the collaboration between the following partners:
  • Global Empowerment Mission
  • Jewish Federation
  • Save the Children
  • American Red Cross
  • Hope Animal Assisted Crisis Response
  • Capacity Path
  • Global Empowerment Mission provided cash cards to evacuees as they deplane.
  • FloridaCommerce coordinated with private sector partners AT&T, Verizon and T-Mobile to provide technical cellular support for individuals at the Multi Agency Support Center.
  • The Florida Department of Elder Affairs (DOEA) has provided several staff members from the Senior Connection Center to provide assistance and resources at the Tampa airport this weekend for seniors arriving in Florida. Senior Connection Center (SCC) is the local Area Agency on Aging for the Florida Department of Elder Affairs.
  • SCC staff participated in the Israel Evacuee Coordination Event on October 18. SCC staff was joined by a representative from Gulf Coast Jewish Family and Community Services (GCJFCS) with a strong history working with holocaust survivors, refugee services and crisis counseling. SCC staff provided toiletry kits, packages of Kleenex, hand sanitizers, first aid kits and a variety of snacks to arriving passengers.
  • The Florida Agency for Persons with Disabilities (APD) provided on-site support at the MARC to welcome and act as a sought-after resource, offering immediate and long-term navigation and services for arriving Floridians with unique abilities.
  • APD worked with private sector partner, Family Initiative, to prepare and supply 30 sensory kits to meet the needs of Floridians arriving home at the MARC.
  • APD proactively partnered with Centers for Independent Living to provide needed durable medical equipment to arriving Floridians with unique abilities.