LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- Shaken passengers arrived in Los Angeles from Tel Aviv Monday morning after Israel declared war following a massive and unprecedented attack by Hamas.
Passengers who were able to flee the violence say they're thankful their flight took off and they're now safe, but their hearts are broken thinking about the people left behind.
"I just had the worst experience of my life," said Mia, a passenger arriving in L.A. who was in the Tel Aviv neighborhood of Florentin during the attacks.
"I heard the rockets go off and my whole life changed," she said crying.
Family members at Los Angeles International Airport greeted loved ones with tears in their eyes as a sense of relief came over them.
Passengers arrived just 48 hours after Hamas fighters stormed into Israeli towns in a surprise attack during a Jewish holiday.
Passengers described to Eyewitness News the terrifying moments they realized Israel was under attack.
"We woke up to alarms, got out of bed, started panicking," Natalie Shaposhnik said.
Shaposhnik knew what she heard couldn't be a military drill and within a couple minutes she began hearing loud booms.
"And then the horror story unfolded," she said.
Israel's military ordered a complete siege on the Gaza Strip on Monday, halting deliveries of food, fuel and supplies to its 2.3 million people as it pounded the Hamas-ruled territory with waves of airstrikes in retaliation for the militants' bloody weekend incursion.
"All my friends in the military, in the IDF in Israel, we were with them the night before. That morning they were gone, they were already taken in," said Abraham, another passenger arriving to L.A. Monday. "We saw families walking their dads out to war. It was a moving experience and horrific at the same time."
Passengers say they have family members and friends arriving later this week, and they're hoping their flights still take off.
"I kept telling everyone once it's been like an hour on this flight and I'm out of Israeli airspace I will be able to breathe again, but not until then," Drew Edelman of Larchmont said. "We landed and I started crying walking through customs. I've never been so happy to be in America."
The priority for many friends and family members has been trying to contact loved ones in the Middle East.
One woman says her friends were at a music festival when the attack happened and she hasn't heard from them since.
"Everyone was kinda just worrying, trying to leave so nobody really knows," Lior Tal said. "People ran in different directions. No one really knows where anyone is anymore."