In a harrowing turn of events, a church group from Graystone Church in Loganville, Georgia, found themselves inadvertently caught in the crossfire of the conflict between Israel and Hamas. Arriving in Israel early Saturday morning, the group of 42 had been on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land, blissfully unaware of the unfolding hostilities.
As they touched down, Hamas launched a devastating attack on Israel, with thousands of rockets raining down and a death toll exceeding 250, particularly impacting a music festival near the Gaza border. Wayne Shelmutt, one of the group members, recounted the shock of landing “in the war zone” and feeling abandoned by Delta Airlines, with no option but to retreat to their hotel.
En route to their destination in Netanya, the group witnessed the chaos on the streets, with cars swerving and people taking cover beneath vehicles. The disoriented travelers were oblivious to the scale of the attacks during their flight, only realizing the gravity of the situation upon landing.
Days later, the group faced further challenges as some members managed to secure flights to Cyprus, leaving others stranded due to a bomb scare at the Tel Aviv airport. Amid the turmoil, Shelmutt expressed the collective sentiment of the group, emphasizing the disparity between seeing such events on the news and experiencing them firsthand.
Now in Cyprus, the group is navigating the logistical complexities of finding flights home amidst the ongoing crisis. Shelmutt offered poignant reflections on the fear and tension in Israel, acknowledging the difficulties faced by the local population. The toll of the conflict was starkly outlined with reports of 1,200 Israelis and 22 Americans dead as of Wednesday, according to the State Department. Furthermore, a distressing revelation surfaced, with an Israeli military official claiming that at least 150 Israelis, including children and the elderly, had been taken hostage by Hamas.
‘Mass chaos’: Georgia church group trying to get home after start of Israel-Hamas war https://t.co/4L91MvgBfa
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