Group from Loganville First Baptist Church still in Israel, trying to arrange travel home


LOGANVILLE, Ga. — Members of a mission team from First Baptist Church of Loganville remain in the Holy Land but are safe, four days after Hamas militants bombarded Israel with rockets in a surprise attack that also brought gunbattles to its streets for the first time in decades.

The church’s co-pastor, Chase Snyder, asked people to pray for the group as they try to arrange a trip home.

“They are safe and are outside the conflict area,” Snyder said on the church’s Facebook page. “They are in conversations with their travel organization about what actions the team needs to take.”

In an update on Monday, Snyder said the group remains safe and urged people to pray for their safe return home and for a quick end to the fighting..

“Their travel agency is working to secure flights home,” he said.

Church groups from Georgia are routinely traveling in and out of Israel for Holy Land pilgrimages. However, Atlanta-based Delta Airlines announced that it had canceled flights to and from Israel during the fighting.

Atlanta television station Fox 5 reported that Georgia state Sen. Russ Goodman also is in Israel with his mother for a Holy Land pilgrimage. He said they are safe and “being well taken care of.”

Israel bombarded downtown Gaza City on Tuesday and expanded a massive mobilization of reservists, vowing punishing retaliation against the Hamas militant group that increasingly left residents of the tiny Palestinian territory with nowhere to go, The Associated Press reported.

Israel’s military said Tuesday morning that it had regained effective control over its south and the border.

The AP reported that the war has already claimed at least 1,600 hundred lives on both sides — and perhaps many hundreds more. Israel has also said that Hamas and other militant groups in Gaza are also holding more than 150 soldiers and civilians hostage.

The news service said the conflict is only expected to escalate from here. Israel expanded the mobilization of reservists to 360,000 on Tuesday, according to the country’s media.

The Associated Press said a major question is whether Israel will launch a ground offensive into Gaza — a tiny strip of land wedged among Israel, Egypt and the Mediterranean that is home to 2.3 million people and has been governed by Hamas since 2007.

The Israeli military said it struck hundreds of targets overnight in Gaza City's Rimal neighborhood, an upscale district that is home to ministries of the Hamas-run government, as well as universities, media organizations and the offices of aid organizations.

The AP said the weekend attack by Hamas left a death toll unseen since the 1973 war with Egypt and Syria — and even those deaths happened over a longer period of time. The weekend attack was also notable for the high number of civilians killed.