Fairfield veteran coordinates Gaza rescue mission – from his home

While most people were enjoying Christmas and New Year's, a veteran from Fairfield was coordinating a secret rescue mission in the Gaza Strip war zone.

John Craven

Jan 12, 2024, 10:27 PM

Updated 137 days ago

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While most people were enjoying Christmas and New Year's, a veteran from Fairfield was coordinating an extraordinary secret rescue mission in the Gaza Strip war zone.
And Alex Plitsas did it all from his house.
"VERY DIRE SITUATION"
Plitsas was ready for a relaxing holiday with his family – until he learned about Ragi Sckak's plight. After losing his father in the fighting between Hamas and Israel, the U.S. Army infantryman was desperately trying to get his mother and uncle out of Gaza. Both were surrounded by militants with only toilet water to drink.
"This was a very dire situation," said Plitsas. "The uncle actually had 80% of carotid artery was blocked. He was having emergency cardiac issues, so we had to get him out as well."
SECRET RESCUE MISSION
So Plitsas did what he does best. He gathered a group of vets and former intelligence officials, like himself, to smuggle the family out.
"This was the middle of a combat zone," Plitsas said. "This is the front lines, so you have to clear the route to make sure that that's cleared. The window and the time frame to be able to move through is clear."
On Dec. 30, a team of undercover drivers navigated 50 miles of a deadly war zone – in broad daylight – to reach Zahra Sckak and her brother-in-law.
Back in Fairfield, Plitsas was navigating a complex web of diplomacy, convincing Israel to clear the route, Egypt to allow a border crossing and the U.S. to provide intelligence.
"We're glad that they're out," National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby told reporters last Thursday. "There was no U.S. military involvement here. This wasn't some sort of special operations to get them out."
Because the mission was so risky, Plitsas said the effort required a huge amount of trust from all sides.
"It had to go through the prime minister's office in Israel, as well as the White House here," he said.
"TERRIFYING" JOURNEY
Zahra Sckak told The Washington Post that the journey out of Gaza was "terrifying." Complicating matters, there were issues getting through the Egyptian border crossing. But after a few hitches, the family is now safe and planning a new life in America.
For Plitsas, helping a fellow solider was personal.
"I just pictured this poor kid – first-generation immigrant, you know, junior enlisted," he said. "And I just pictured myself in those shoes, and I would want somebody to do that for me if it was my mother."
This wasn't Plitsas' first daring mission. In 2020, he helped evacuate hundreds of people from Afghanistan after the Taliban takeover. Plitsas said he is already working on more missions in Gaza, as well as Ecuador.


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