Israel-Hamas war: Shaken passengers arrive at LAX as attacks continue

An El Al airline flight carrying shaken passengers arrived at Los Angeles International Airport Monday following a tense trip from war-torn Israel, with some expressing relief to be back in the United States while remaining concerned about what they left behind.

The flight arrived at LAX just before 6:30 a.m. Monday, and passengers disembarked under close watch of Airport Police who maintained a heightened presence in the terminal -- mirroring stepped-up patrols by police at Jewish and Muslim institutions across the Southland.

"I went to visit my dad," one disembarking passenger told KNX News after arriving at LAX. "... I couldn't stay over there, and I left my dad with a bad (medical) condition, and I don't know if I'm going to see him again. That's really, really bad and it's breaking my heart."


Another passenger said he was about a half-block away when a rocket hit Tel Aviv.

"So we were outside during the siren and felt, like, the street lit up, and (we saw) the windows warp and stuff like that," he told KNX.

He said it sounded like someone had fired a gun next to his ear.

"It's like a numbness, I've never experienced this type of feeling before," he said. "I guess this is what terrorism really is."

An El Al flight from LAX to Israel was scheduled to depart around midday. One passenger on that flight told KNX he wanted to be with his father, who is in Israel by himself. He said he doesn't know what to expect when he arrives, but he was willing to take the risk.

On Sunday night, hundreds of people took part in a vigil at the Stephen Wise Temple in the Bel-Air area.

In his opening remarks to a crowd of hundreds, Rabbi Yoshi Zweiback said, "What happened yesterday has happened before ... innocents slaughtered, young and old alike, sitting quietly in their homes or sitting outside their homes to enjoy music. What is happening now has happened before."

"After three millennia, we survived pogrom after pogrom," Zweiback said. "The pain that we carry is unbearable and yet somehow, we bear it."

He added, "But here's a truth I hope we can all acknowledge ... that we can embrace: The pogrom is never our fault. Antisemitism is never our fault. We are not responsible for the hatred of others for ... their murderous rage."

Zweiback described Hamas as "a terrorist regime on Israel's border ... that prizes above all else the ability to kidnap one of our children or a grandmother." He said, "The trauma will subside but never fully disappear."

Jenni Alpert, a Jewish educator, next spoke, saying, "We're joining in solidarity together to support the tragedy to persevere with our culture and our tradition, to be together as one during times of struggle for change."

"We gather and we lament together, and we mourn," she said.

Israeli Consul General Israel Bachar addressed the crowd, saying, "This is the largest massacre of Jews since the Holocaust."

He encouraged the crowd to "Stay strong with us. Stay the course. We need you."

Rabbi Noah Farkas took the dais and thanked many elected officials in attendance at the event, including Los Angeles Mayor Karen Bass -- who lit the first candle at the vigil -- and a list of other local elected officials, among them Sheriff Robert Luna and Supervisor Lindsey Horvath, and City Council members Marqueece Harris-Dawson, Bob Blumenfield, Heather Hutt, John Lee, Nithya Raman and Katy Yaroslavsky, along with some former elected officials.

Farkas also recognized all those in the room with military service. "Thank you for your service. ... We wish all of you godspeed and safety in the days to come."

The Los Angeles Police Department and other law enforcement agencies in the area stepped up security around Jewish and Muslim institutions Saturday following the Hamas attack against Israel.

"The Los Angeles Police Department is aware of the turmoil in the Middle East and lives lost," LAPD Chief Michel Moore wrote on social media Saturday. "In those areas where we serve both our Jewish and Muslim communities, we will be conducting extra patrol to ensure the safety of all."

The Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department also stepped up its patrols.

"LASDHQ is aware of the situation in the Middle East," the department posted on social media. "We would like to ensure all residents, we are monitoring, remaining vigilant and conducting extra patrol checks in our areas. We are working closely with our federal and local law enforcement partners to monitor the situation."

Similarly, the city of Beverly Hills said in a statement that the "Beverly Hills Police Department has increased security and patrols around Jewish institutions in the City and continues to work closely with law enforcement partners in the region to ensure public safety."

Bass posted Sunday on social media, "I've directed City Hall to be lit in solidarity with Israel this evening. Los Angeles stands with the people of Israel and unequivocally condemns these attacks."

Elected leaders from the Southland and throughout the United States condemned the attack, and major airlines were suspending flights to the Middle East nation. United Airlines, American Airlines, and Delta Air Lines all announced that they had temporarily suspended flights to and from the international airport near Tel Aviv.

Early Saturday, Hamas forces fired thousands of rockets into Israel as dozens of Hamas fighters infiltrated several locations, catching the country off-guard as the weeklong Jewish festival of Sukkot, also known as the Feast of the Tabernacles, came to an end.

Israeli authorities said a second round of rockets were fired Saturday evening and struck multiple locations inside Israel, including in Tel Aviv.

In addition to the casualties, Israel said at least 100 of its soldiers and civilians were captured and taken to Gaza as hostages.

Cars parked outside a residential building catch fire during a rocket attack from the Gaza Strip on the southern Israeli city of Ashkelon, on October 7, 2023. (Photo by AHMAD GHARABLI/AFP via Getty Images)

Israel estimated that more than 700 of its military personnel and citizens were dead, and several hundred Palestinians have been killed in the retaliatory fighting, with thousands more wounded.

The fighting came on the 50th anniversary of the Yom Kippur War when Israel was attacked by a coalition of Arab states.

Hamas is a Palestinian Sunni-Islamic fundamentalist group, founded in 1987, that disputes Israel's right to territory in the West Bank.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told his nation in a televised address Saturday, "We are at war. What happened (Saturday) has never been seen in Israel. We will take mighty vengeance for this black day."

The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles decried the attacks and pledged its support for Israel.

"Once again, on a holy day of the Jewish calendar, Israelis have come under attack," an organization statement said. "The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles stands in solidarity with our beloved homeland. We are working with our partners in Israel and across the globe to ensure the people of Israel have our full support and all necessary resources.

"Israel will prevail and the Jewish people will stand together -- as we always do."

The Federation set up an emergency fund to support the victims, which can be found at

The Washington-based Muslim Public Affairs Council issued a statement saying, "To truly understand what is happening, we must look to the source of the problem; an ongoing occupation in violation of international human rights law that has left the Palestinian people, in particular Gazans, stripped of their basic rights and human dignity.

"By actively, and often violently, preventing their pursuit of a self- defined identity, national autonomy, and global recognition, Israeli occupation and the world's continued silence has offered Hamas and other groups the political vacuum needed to propel themselves into positions of leadership and justify their violent attacks.

"In turn, Israel uses the attacks of Hamas, and other groups, to justify their disproportionate and devastating assaults on Palestinians, targeting primarily civilian areas. The resulting unyielding cycle of death and destruction reaps no benefit nor levies any consequence greater than the continued dehumanization and death of the Palestinian people."

In a 13-minute speech Saturday, President Joe Biden said, "I want to say to them and to the world and to terrorists everywhere that the United States stands with Israel. We will not ever fail to have their back.

"We'll make sure they have the help their citizens need and they can continue to defend themselves."

According to the National Security Council, nine U.S. citizens have been confirmed dead in the fighting as of Monday morning. Federal authorities were still working to verify reports of American who may be missing or possibly even taken hostage.

Officials said U.S. citizens seeking to get in touch with the U.S. Embassy in Israel should visit or call 888-407- 4747.