The Pentagon has dispatched the US Marine Rapid Response team for a potential deployment in Israel as it increases the force display to prevent the conflict with Hamas from escalating into a regional war.
The US Marine Rapid Response force consisting of about 2,000 Marines and sailors is currently en route to the waters off the coast of Israel, reported CNN, quoting two unnamed defense sources familiar with the plans. The Marine Corps did not announce the exact location of their deployment.
The development comes as the Pentagon deployed two aircraft carriers and auxiliary warships to the eastern Mediterranean, near the Israeli coast. The USS Gerald R. Ford carrier strike group was dispatched two days after Hamas launched the surprise attack on October 7. With its battle group, the USS Dwight Eisenhower was directed to move to the eastern Mediterranean just recently.
The US Marines’s rapid response forces would thus join the two battle groups, having heavy aircraft carriers and advanced guided missile warships, albeit without the intent of directly entering the Israel-Hamas war.
The deployment comes amid an air force campaign by the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) against the besieged Gaza Strip and sporadic shots being exchanged with Hezbollah in northern Israel on the Lebanon borders.
Several defense officials told the media recently that the US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin instructed that about 2,000 troops get ready for possible deployment to Israel to “assist with duties including medical and logistical assistance.” This means that the troops will engage in non-combat duties, if at all.
U.S. Navy moving significant firepower + military assets near Israel:
– IKE aircraft carrier + strike group directed to join the Ford CSG in the Eastern Med
– Bataan Amphibious Ready Group, with Marine Expeditionary Unit embarked, can be quickly deployed
New map + report ⬇️ pic.twitter.com/P12aN2pvYs
— Ian Ellis (@ianellisjones) October 16, 2023
The US officials have been tirelessly reiterating that these deployments are meant to prevent a wider regional conflict in which Lebanon’s Hezbollah militant group and its backer Iran may get involved.
Amid mounting concerns about an Israeli invasion of Gaza, Iran has warned that any ground offensive in the Gaza Strip could expand the conflict’s scope to other nations in the Middle East.
Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian told Al Jazeera over the weekend, “If the measures aimed at immediately stopping the Israeli attacks that are killing children in the Gaza Strip end in a deadlock, it is highly probable that many other fronts will be opened. This option is not ruled out and is becoming increasingly more probable.”
However, experts believe that the US accumulation of forces close to Israel risks intensifying US engagement in a situation where the Biden administration is attempting to stay out. The US has clarified that it has no plans to send American soldiers to the battleground in Israel, even though it has rushed with munitions supplies.
According to experts, the deployment signals a projection of force to its regional foes at a time when a staunch US ally that came under an unassuming surprise attack is now bombing Gaza and reducing the densely populated enclave to rubble.
“It is a message of backing to Israel and a stern warning to Iran that they will go all in if the need arises,” a Middle East-based expert told EurAsian Times on condition of anonymity.
US Rapid Response Forces In Israel
The troops are not yet deployed and are not guaranteed to travel to Gaza or Israel. According to the official, they would travel to a nearby nation to train for Israel’s conflict with Hamas if they were sent on a mission.
Those who received the instructions were already in a 96-hour prepare-to-deploy condition, which has now been reduced to 24 hours.
Service troops with various skills and specialties, such as handling explosives and providing medical support, would be among those being deployed. This may not be the first time the US has deployed marines in the region.
In response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine last year, the US Defense Department announced that three Marine Corps aviation units have joined more than 10,000 American forces sent to Germany and Eastern Europe. Additionally, thousands more American soldiers were given shorter prepare-to-deploy orders.
Earlier this year, the US Naval Forces Central Command announced that more than 3,000 Marines and sailors arrived in the Middle East on October 15 as a deployment intended to dissuade Iran from boarding and harassing commercial ships close to the Strait of Hormuz.
At the time, the Marines boarded the USS Carter Hall, a landing dock warship, and the USS Bataan, an amphibious assault warship, all of which are capable of transporting several aircraft, including Osprey and Harrier jets, as well as amphibious landing boats and tactical vehicles.
As part of a planned drill, the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU), which specializes in missions like amphibious operations, crisis response, humanitarian assistance, and some special operations, has recently been stationed close to Kuwait.
Nevertheless, it left early “due to emerging events,” Capt. Angelica White, a unit spokesperson, told the Marine Corps Times about the recent deployment orders.
It is, however, still too soon what and where precisely this deployment would take place. Pentagon deputy press secretary Sabrina Singh said, “I don’t have more to provide now. I might be able to give you more details later, but I don’t have anything more specific to add.”
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