June 16, 2024

A coach from the Mexican national rhythmic gymnastics team is pleading for help after the war in Israel stranded her and her team during an overseas training trip.

“The situation has taken an unexpected and disturbing turn,” said Blajaith Aguilar, the team’s coach, in an Instagram video posted Monday.

Hamas launched a surprise attack on Israel over the weekend, killing hundreds of people, including many civilians, and trapping others in their homes. Israel responded by hammering the Gaza Strip, reducing whole Palestinian neighborhoods to rubble and cutting off access to food and other supplies. Several American tourists — including New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker — were in Israel when the attacks started, and many are still trapped.

Aguilar said her team was preparing for the upcoming Pan American Games when the attacks began. Standing beside five women from the team, Aguilar said in the video, which was posted Monday, that they haven’t been able to leave the country because many flights have been canceled. She appealed to the Mexican government to help them leave.

Mexico’s National Commission of Physical Culture and Sport, an agency charged with promoting physical education and sports, said in a statement that the team was safe, in a location away from the conflict.

By Tuesday morning, Mexico announced that its military was sending airplanes to Israel to bring back its stranded citizens.

The first flight, a Boeing 737, arrived there by 10 a.m. PST, and a second flight was en route, according to a post from the Mexican state department’s X account.

The Mexican Federation of Gymnastics said on X that the rhythmic gymnastics team was among the first groups that would be leaving Israel.

Aguilar, head coach for the gymnastics team since 2016, is from Guadalajara in the Mexican state of Jalisco.

Jalisco Gov. Enrique Alfaro Ramírez acknowledged Aguilar’s video in a post on social media Monday morning, and said the state and national governments were coordinating to get her home safely. He added that the government is working to support other Jalisco residents in Israel.

“We are safe and well,” Aguilar said to her Instagram followers. “All your messages keep us strong and hopeful that we will soon be back home. We thank all the Mexican people who are looking out for us.”

President Biden said Tuesday that at least 14 Americans were killed during the attacks, and others are likely being held hostage by Hamas. The State Department is providing consular service and stepped-up security to Americans abroad, the statement said.

“The safety of American citizens — whether at home or abroad — is my top priority as president,” Biden said in the statement. “I have directed my team to work with their Israeli counterparts on every aspect of the hostage crisis, including sharing intelligence and deploying experts from across the United States government to consult with and advise Israeli counterparts on hostage recovery efforts.”


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