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Florida cargo flights arranged by DeSantis carried drones and body armor for Israel

By Steve Contorno, CNN

(CNN) — Two cargo planes recently orchestrated by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis to carry supplies into Israel also contained drones, body armor and helmets for the war-ready country, CNN has learned.

The Israeli government procured the equipment and asked the state of Florida for help transporting it overseas, a source with knowledge of the arrangement told CNN. The supplies were included on two cargo planes that left Florida for Israel on October 17.

DeSantis’ office previously said the cargo flights carried “medical supplies, clothing items, hygiene products and children’s toys” that had been donated to help Israel in the aftermath of the attack by Hamas earlier this month, but it did not mention that the state was also carrying equipment for Israel that could be used in response to the war effort.

The governor’s office confirmed to CNN on Thursday the inclusion of the additional equipment.

“At the request of the Israeli Consul General in Miami, cargo planes contracted by Florida were used to transport healthcare and hospital supplies, drones, body armor, and helmets that first responders can use,” Jeremy Redfern, a spokesman for the governor’s office, said in a statement.

Redfern said that the governor’s office also worked with the Israeli consul general to “help get weapons and ammunition to Israel through private parties.” However, the source said Florida did not transport those supplies, and it’s unclear how the state aided Israel in the movement of munitions.

DeSantis, a Republican presidential candidate, has regularly touted his push to arrange flights to help Israel in the aftermath of the attack by Hamas that killed at least 1,400 people, including planes used to evacuate Americans out of the region. In media appearances and on the campaign trail, DeSantis has highlighted these efforts as evidence of his leadership and has accused President Joe Biden of not doing enough to assist Americans looking to leave the war-torn region.

The Biden administration has also chartered flights from Israel to destinations in Europe amid a scramble to get Americans back to the US.

“When there’s no leadership, you have a choice: Are you going to just kind of sit there and complain about it or are you going to step up and are you going to lead?” DeSantis said earlier this month. “We make things happen particularly at times of crisis.”

CNN has reached out to the Israeli Embassy in Washington, DC, for comment.

DeSantis declared a state of emergency in Florida on October 12, giving him authority to mobilize state resources to “bring Floridians home and transport necessary supplies to Israel.” On October 15, DeSantis’ office announced that his administration worked with Project Dynamo, a nonprofit that carries out international rescue missions, to evacuate about 270 people from Israel to Tampa.

DeSantis and his wife, Casey, greeted the returning Floridians on the tarmac.

Two days later, two cargo planes carrying 85 pallets left Tampa for Israel. According to a press release, the packed items included bandages, hospital gowns, IV kits, needles, syringes, ventilators and surgical gloves, as well as toys, sleeping bags and hygiene products. It was those planes that also carried the equipment for the Israeli government.

To conduct these missions, the state has contracted with ARS Global Emergency Management, one of three companies selected by Florida to carry out DeSantis’ controversial migrant transport program. ARS Global Emergency Management has so far invoiced the state about $19 million for these missions to Israel, which also includes costs of hotel stays, food and other expenses, in addition to the planes, crews and fuel, the state has said.

By declaring a state of emergency, DeSantis can access a $500 million fund that does not require him to first receive legislative approval.

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