New Yorkers, officials return from Israel shocked but safe

BySonia Rincón and and the Eyewitness News team WABC logo
Monday, October 9, 2023
New Yorkers, officials return from Israel shocked but safe
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For one New York family, surviving the Hamas-Israeli conflict meant waiting hours inside a bomb shelter, hearing the blasts go off around them. Lucy Yang has more.

NEW YORK (WABC) -- For one New York family, surviving the Hamas-Israeli conflict meant waiting hours inside a bomb shelter, hearing the blasts go off around them, and then driving through the now war-torn land to try to catch a flight to safety.

In the end, they all made it. The Kantor family landed at Kennedy Airport on Sunday afternoon.

The couple and their three children were in Jerusalem taking part in a summit promoting peace, but they found themselves in the middle of horrific violence - Hamas' attacks including rockets, kidnappings, and a ground invasion, and Israel's swift and punishing retaliation, and declaration of war.

The family tells us they heard explosions starting at 8:20 local time. With that, armed guards appeared all over Jerusalem instructing hotel guests to stay put.

The Kantors say it felt the way New York City did on 9/11 and drove from Jerusalem to Tel Aviv to get a flight home, which was not easy to do.

RELATED: Up Close with Bill Ritter focuses on the Israel-Hamas conflict

Families and friends trying to reach their loved ones in Israel are encouraged to call the Consulate General of Israel in New York's hotline at 917-756-8387.

Senator Cory Booker was in Israel during the invasion but is among those who safely got out.

The New Jersey Democrat was in Jerusalem for several days of meetings.

He was supposed to attend a summit in Tel Aviv this week. Instead, Booker and his colleagues sought shelter before leaving Israel.

His spokesperson issued a statement, "We are grateful that Senator Booker and our colleagues were able to safely depart Israel earlier today."

The NYPD has increased security at synagogues across the city in response to the attacks from Hamas on Isreal. Tom Negovan has the latest.

Congressman Dan Goldman was also in Israel. A statement from his team reads in part: "Congressman Goldman, his wife, and three youngest children were in Israel for a family bar mitzvah when Hamas brutally attacked Israel..."

The statement goes on to say that they "sheltered from Hamas rocket fire in their hotel's interior stairwell until early Sunday morning, when they were able to safely depart for New York."

Some NYPD officials were also in Israel when the attacks began. The police department confirms all NYPD personnel are out of Israel and safe. No word on exactly how many people were there when the fighting began.

Meanwhile, police in New York, where there are locations sensitive to both Israeli and Palestinian interests, adjusted patrols in response to Saturday's attacks in Israel.

Police ringed the United Nations compound on Sunday as scores of pro-Palestinian protestors gathered a block away, chanting and waving flags. Metal barricades kept them on sidewalks as officers worked to separate them from an opposing group across the street, some waving Israeli flags.

Vigil was taking place in Washington Heights with Congressman Adriano Espaillat and Manhattan Borough President Mark Levine on Sunday night for the victims of the attacks in Israel.

In a statement on Saturday, New York City Mayor Eric Adams said the attack "is nothing more than a cowardly action."

Speaking on the added security, Mayor Adams, who is currently in Central America, said, "I am also communicating directly with Police Commissioner Caban and Deputy Commissioner of Intelligence and Counterterrorism Weiner about the situation. While there is no credible threat to New York City at this time, our administration is in touch with Jewish leaders across the five boroughs, and we have directed the NYPD to deploy additional resources to Jewish communities and houses of worship citywide to ensure that our communities have the resources they need to make sure everyone feels safe."

New York Governor Hochul, meanwhile, confirmed talks with Israel's Acting Consul General in New York and said work is being done to ensure New Yorkers in Israel "get home safely."

"I have also spoken with Israel's Acting Consul General in New York to offer our support, and we are working with the American Embassy in Israel to discuss ways to get New Yorkers home safely if they so choose," said Hochul. "I am committed to doing everything possible to support this community at this critical time."

On Long Island, Nassau County Executive Bruce Blakeman worked with law enforcement officials to order a similar response to protect the Jewish community.

"Nassau County's home to hundreds of thousands of people who identify themselves as Jewish. We are going to do everything in our power to make sure that they are safe," Blakeman said.

Meanwhile, Westchester County Executive George Latimer shared that a delegation of local police chiefs are currently in Israel for Anti-Semitism training.


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