PORTSMOUTH, Va. (WAVY/WRIC) — Teams from Portsmouth-based non-profit Mercy Chefs are on the ground in Israel providing aid to people there, assisting victims of the attacks.

There are teams from Virginia, California and Florida volunteering to provide food to those in need.

“We would certainly rather not go into areas of conflict but if that’s where the greatest need is, that’s where Mercy Chefs is going to be,” said Mercy Chefs founder, Gary LeBlanc.

LeBlanc said teams are delivering hot meals to people who have been stuck in their basements or in bomb shelters since the attacks began. He said they plan to be there as long as needed.

LeBlanc said traveling to the country has been difficult for some of the volunteers so far, with several flights being cancelled and sometimes over six hours needed to cross the border from Jordan into Israel. 

His team is working out of Jerusalem.

In a social media post Thursday afternoon (Virginia time), Mercy Chefs said they are working with local partners to get fresh ingredients to cook more than 1,000 hot meals every day.

Carl Ladd, Vice President of Mercy Chefs Global, provided an update from the ground in Israel. He said, “This is a small country and almost every single person we interact with has a direct story of what happened to them, or what happened to their daughter or their son. Everybody’s been impacted by this personally and yet they’re still rallying together to serve others, to help where they can. And we’re honored to be on the ground with them.”

Meanwhile, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken vowed American support for Israel Thursday in a meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

The Israeli military said more than 1,300 people, including 222 soldiers, have been killed in Israel.

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