BYU says students and staff at its Jerusalem Center are safe after rocket attacks stun Israel

It’s uncertain when they will be able to leave the center, according to a school security update.

The students and staff at Brigham Young University’s Jerusalem Center are safe after a series of rocket attacks from Gaza militants landed in Israel on Saturday morning, the university announced.

It’s unknown whether or when the 94 students and expatriate personnel at the center will get to leave Jerusalem, BYU announced in a security update posted Saturday afternoon Utah time.

“The attack was unexpected and caught virtually everyone by surprise,” read the statement from BYU. “The Jerusalem Center and surrounding area have never been threatened during these flare-ups; however, it is unclear whether the situation will escalate and affect Jerusalem.”

The Associated Press reported Saturday that Hamas militants fired thousands of rockets and sent dozens of fighters into Israeli towns near the Gaza Strip. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Saturday that his country is “at war” and ordered airstrikes against Gaza in response.

The AP also reported Saturday that more than 80 flights to and from Tel Aviv were canceled Saturday evening, making up about 14% of all flights scheduled. Delta Air Lines, American Airlines and Lufthansa were among the carriers to cancel flights.

The students and personnel living at the BYU center have been asked to stay there through Sunday night, and “a decision about Monday will be made Sunday evening,” according to the statement. It seems likely, the statement continued, that students and staff will be asked to stay at the center into next week, though decisions about travel outside the center will be made day by day.

A Sunday evening concert at the Jerusalem Center and a field trip to Eilat — about 200 miles south of Jerusalem, on the Gulf of Aqaba — have been canceled, according to BYU. Travel plans outside the center, the statement said, “will be evaluated as the conflict unfolds.”

Classes will continue as scheduled, BYU said, and students in the center are scheduled Sunday to work on a humanitarian project.

The center is located on Mount Scopus, overlooking the Mount of Olives, the Kidron Valley and the Old City of Jerusalem. It’s BYU’s “home base for study in the Holy Land,” according to the center’s website. BYU is owned by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.