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Israel-Hamas war: Americans hoping to leave the country with US help must agree to repay the government before leaving

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) — As many Americans in Israel attempt to return home, they face much more than just the challenge of knowing how and when to catch a flight.

“I’ve only been here about a week and a half, it feels like almost a lifetime,” said Manny Yekutiel, the local owner of Manny’s in San Francisco.

He arrived in Israel for the first time last Wednesday.

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“I came here to see my family, they live here and to celebrate with them,” Yekutiel said. “The holiday that was to take place on Saturday was supposed to be one of the happiest days of the year for Jews.”

Instead, he says it’s been a nightmare.

“On Saturday I woke up in my sister’s house and heard supersonic booms overhead and spent the whole day going in and out of the bomb shelters,” he said. he declares. “I saw hundreds of children in synagogues running for cover, protecting themselves and asking their parents to protect them. I stayed in Tel Aviv, two blocks from an apartment that exploded by a missile strike.”

Over the past four days, he has spent time volunteering in Tel Aviv.

He and the other volunteers pack food and other essentials for soldiers and families who have lost loved ones.

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“I decided to be as helpful as possible,” he said. “And also, now I’m at the stage where I’m trying to figure out how, if I can get home?”

Yekutiel was originally scheduled to return Monday evening, but he says several flights have since been canceled.

The State Department said in a statement Thursday that starting Friday, the U.S. government will arrange charter flights to help U.S. citizens trying to leave Israel.

On Thursday, Yekutiel received an email from the department giving more details.

“Basically it said: I’ll get a phone call, I’ll either get on a boat or I’ll get on a plane and I don’t have a choice (between the two) and I’ll be ready to go,” Yekutiel said. .

Yekutiel shared this email with ABC7, sent from a U.S. government email address.

RELATED: US death toll rises to 27, US embassy to help Americans evacuate Israel

He offers American help to leave Israel by plane or boat to Germany, Greece or Cyprus.

Coming back to the States after that is up to Manny. The email states that before departure, passengers will be asked to sign a reimbursement agreement with the US government.

We contacted the State Department to verify the email, and they referred us to Thursday’s statement.

Yekutiel says he still hasn’t had time to process what he witnessed, but it has forever changed the way he views his life in the United States.

“War, entire cities shut down, entire towns evacuated,” he reflected of the final days in Israel, “It just puts into perspective the things that people find important to fight for in the Bay Area .”

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