Ron DeSantis’ Israel rescue operation stranded Americans in Cyprus for days

DeSantis has used evacuation efforts in Israel to contrast his leadership and that of President Joe Biden.

Twenty-three Americans fleeing Israel spent several days stuck in Cyprus due to the inefficiency of the contractors that Gov. Ron DeSantis’ administration hired to fly them out, according to the CEO of the international rescue organization that partnered with Florida on the missions.

Bryan Stern, who leads the Hillsborough County nonprofit Project DYNAMO, told the Orlando Sentinel he blames DeSantis’ rush to load evacuees onto planes and attract positive headlines for his presidential campaign for the confusion that led to the four-day stopover.

San Francisco Bay area resident Stuart Zins, who was among those who returned stateside Wednesday, agreed with Stern’s assessment.

“It was not Project DYNAMO,” he said. “It was the contractor that caused the delays.”

Project DYNAMO, which in two years has conducted more than 600 missions bringing 7,000 Americans home, was already in Israel assembling a passenger list when Stern received a call from Sen. Jay Collins on Oct. 12.

Collins, a friend of Stern’s and fellow military veteran, offered Florida’s partnership in the evacuation effort. Stern accepted, and DeSantis issued an executive order less than a half hour later directing the Division of Emergency Management (DEM) to fly Floridians back to the United States.

The arrangement was simple. Stern found passengers and state contractors chartered the planes. But Stern soon grew suspicious of how experienced the contractors were with large-scale evacuations from war zones. First, DEM told him it had a jet nearby in Jordan that could fly to Tel Aviv but didn’t have clearance to land there, prompting the contractors to rush to find another plane.

Then he learned the contractors were competing with one another for charters and sending prices skyrocketing by bidding for the same planes.

The contractors, he said, “didn’t know what they were doing.”

“I kept saying, ‘I’ve literally done hundreds of these types of operations, and if you want the help, we’re the experts in this,” he told the Sentinel. “DeSantis’ group said, ‘We’ve got this,’ but it became apparent the contractors were steering DEM.”

The contractors were grossly inefficient, according to Zins, who said he and his family were on one of three Learjet flights to Cyprus, an island in the Mediterranean Sea, that had just 23 people onboard. Stern said the plane also flew just eight people to Madrid, after which he had to buy them commercial tickets to the U.S.

Zins said that his experience while in Cyprus wasn’t bad. He and other evacuees received $500 for medicine and clothing — his family arrived without their luggage, which had been loaded onto another flight — and the hotel where they stayed provided free breakfast and a $30 dinner allowance.

But while 270 people landed Sunday in Tampa and were greeted by news cameras, the Governor and First Lady Casey DeSantis, Zins and close to two dozen others remained in Cyprus after mechanical problems grounded the jet meant to take them home.

Stern said he was unaware then that Americans still remained in Cyprus when he participated in the Tampa event.

Those left behind finally boarded a replacement plane on Wednesday that stopped in Athens to pick up 24 other passengers. It took off from Israel with nearly its entire coach section empty. That irked Stern, who said Project DYNAMO had more evacuees in Cyprus that could have gotten off in Athens if he’d known there were so many open seats.

As of Friday, contractors Florida hired have brought home more than 500 Americans from Israel, according to DEM spokesperson Alecia Collins.

According to the Sentinel, DeSantis’ administration has not been forthcoming with details on the flights program, including costs and which contractors the state hired. The Sentinel identified one contractor as Texas-based ARS/Global Emergency Management and said the cost of the first evacuation, which ended with the Tampa media event Sunday, cost $4 million.

An estimated 20,000 American citizens have reached out to the federal government for help getting back to the U.S., according to the Jerusalem Post.

DeSantis has used evacuation efforts in Israel to contrast his leadership and that of President Joe Biden.

“It was sad, because the State Department and the embassy over in Israel were not helpful to these people,” he told FOX News this week.

He said he decided to act after seeing Americans stuck in Israel being “dump(ed) in Cyprus.”

“We were able to fill a void,” he said. “There was (no) leadership, and so we stepped up and we led.”

The goal, he said, is to get at least 1,000 people home.

The State Department, meanwhile, is chartering flights out of Ben Gurion Airport and has evacuated at least 1,500 people.

But while the Biden administration is requiring passengers aboard its chartered flights from Israel to reimburse the federal government, those flown on Florida’s dime haven’t been asked to pay a cent.

Staff Reports


  • PeterH

    October 20, 2023 at 7:19 pm

    Sorry …. but Americans living in Israel were entitled to an exit. If they want flights back to USA they should proceed and buy a flight or cruise ship ticket.

  • Earl Pitts "Whos Your Daddy" American

    October 20, 2023 at 7:24 pm

    Good evening to all you twisted freaks AKA Dook For Brains Lefty’s and RINO’s,
    Ron’s problems are 100% better than your current President’s many many many many many …. Earl takes a breath …. many many many many many …. epic failures.
    Thank you Ron our next POTUS.
    The above un-disputable statement of Truth, Justice, and The American Way was brought to you by “Your Daddy” Earl Pitts American

    • rick whitaker

      October 21, 2023 at 6:53 am


  • rick whitaker

    October 20, 2023 at 7:30 pm

    desantis’ incompetence is showing. how does a showboat like him garner any support at all. he makes the maga cult look good compared to him and that’s saying a lot. people that voted for him should sue him for fraud

  • My Take

    October 20, 2023 at 8:50 pm

    Everyone else calls them, accurately, “evacuation.”
    “I’m the hero” DeSScamus does a “rescue.”

  • Michael K

    October 20, 2023 at 11:01 pm

    Wow. These ridiculous stunts are getting more ridiculous and more expensive. Meanwhile, Rhonda continues to sink like a lead balloon.

  • Ocean Joe

    October 21, 2023 at 9:32 am

    No doubt he wanted his name on it for political advantage and his folks are inept, but seriously for those 28 folks to complain about leaving a war zone is insane.
    Nobody seems to remember Black September, the Munich Olympics, the Achille Lauro and the guy getting pushed off in a wheel chair or the countless attacks on public buses and places over the years, not to mention 9-11.
    There is a moral equivalency as to the right of people to live freely but there is no moral equivalency as to the tactics of slaughter perpetrated against civilians as demonstrated by radicals and Arab governments against their own people for centuries.
    The 800,000 Jews who lived all over the Arab world were expelled from countries where their families lived for centuries. If the Palestinians wanted peace they would have had peace long ago instead of walls to block the antics of radicals who are jobless and hopeless and use Islam as a mask for terror.

    • rick whitaker

      October 21, 2023 at 7:36 pm

      religion ( superstition ) is the engine behind all the killing on both sides. islam, christianity, judaism , all bad.

  • Joe

    October 23, 2023 at 11:51 am

    There’s that classic campaign-mode competence from Tiny D, lol.

Comments are closed.


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