NORTH DAKOTA (KXNET) — 84 North Dakotans are stuck in Bethlehem, Israel right now, after Hamas, a Palestinian militant group, launched the deadliest attack Israel has seen in 50 years.
Israel has now declared war on Hamas, here’s what we know so far.
Since last week, 84 North Dakotans have been in Israel for a trip to see historic religious sites. They are from churches in Grand Forks and Fargo, with most of the group ages 60 and older, along with one high school student and his parents.
Father Phil Ackerman, the leader of the group, spoke with KX News and says they are supposed to come home Thursday, but he is doubtful that will happen.
“We hope that there are other options available for us,” said Father Phil Ackerman, the Priest of the Holy Cross Catholic Church in Fargo. “Maybe some help from the U.S. Embassy, to help us and guide us. Or the U.S. State Department. Those conditions and situations are changing. Things change by the day and sometimes by the hour.”
Ackerman says that even though Bethlehem has been deemed ‘safe’ throughout the attacks, most businesses are closed, the streets are empty, and there are long lines of people filling up their cars with gas, just in case.
Hamas fighters are said to have fired nearly 5,000 rockets into Southern and Central Israel.
According to CBS News, more than 1,500 people have been killed since the attack started Saturday, and several hostages have been taken on both sides.
“Since Sunday until now, there’s been kind of a level of anxiety below the surface, I would say,” Ackerman said. “But as the days progress and not knowing if we are going to be able to actually board the plane, and what the options are, it’s going to stress people out a little more. At this time, I really can’t think of anything that can be done except prayers.”
Governor Doug Burgum also reached out to Ackerman on Monday and released a statement in regards to the war.
“The attack by Hamas terrorists on Israel is reprehensible, and the fact it occurred on a Jewish holiday is despicable. We stand with our democratic ally Israel while lifting up in prayer the victims of these horrific attacks,” Burgum said. “We also pray for the safe return of the priests and parishioners from North Dakota congregations who are anxiously waiting to board flights home. Today we reached out to the U.S. State Department and spoke with Father Ackerman, offering to assist however possible to help ensure the safe return of those North Dakotans and all Americans wanting to return to U.S. soil.”