Riley Castia/US Navy/AP
A file photo released by the U.S. Navy shows the amphibious assault ship USS Bataan and the landing ship USS Carter Hall in the Red Sea in August 2023.
A U.S. Marine rapid response force is heading to waters off the coast of Israel and the Pentagon is preparing to send U.S. troops to the country. A show of force It works in the region to prevent further escalation of the conflict between Israel and Hamas.
A rapid response force of 2,000 Marines and sailors is being deployed, a defense official familiar with the planning said. As the U.S. seeks to send a deterrent message to Iran and the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah, it will join a growing number of U.S. warships and forces massing in Israel.
On Sunday evening, US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin ordered preparations to send about 2,000 troops to Israel to help with tasks such as medical and logistical support, several defense officials said.
Taken together, the moves are aimed at averting a wider regional war, officials said. But they also risk deepening America’s involvement in the conflict with the Biden administration Trying to avoid direct military action action.
Officials have insisted that the United States has no plans to put American boots on the ground in the war between Israel and Hamas, which Israeli officials have warned could be long and difficult.
But planning and operations provide a window into the kind of help America can provide, including managing logistics and providing medical aid from the front lines. It would be more valuable if Israel launched a ground invasion of Gaza, which experts warned could be complicated and bloody.
The decisions come as the US military continues to strengthen its presence in the Middle East, including deploying a second aircraft carrier to the eastern Mediterranean to join the USS Ford strike carrier group and sending Air Force fighter jets to the region.
Officials said the Pentagon is being deliberately cautious about sending US troops to Israel because the Biden administration doesn’t want to give the impression that US troops could become embroiled in a hot war.
But preparations are underway for various contingencies in case things escalate further.
The 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU), which specializes in missions such as amphibious operations, crisis response, humanitarian assistance and some special operations, has been stationed near Kuwait in recent weeks as part of a planned exercise there. But it left early “as a result of developing events,” Capt. Angelica White, a spokeswoman for the unit, told Marine Corps Times on Wednesday.
CNN previously reported that the group was preparing for a possible move toward Israel.
Officials did not specify where the Marine unit would go, other than to say it was headed toward Israel. But it could be on Israel’s southern coast in the Red Sea, which would put US forces close to the country’s two coastlines. The unit is currently aboard the amphibious assault ship USS Batan in the Gulf of Oman, officials said.
USS Bataan and the 26th MEU have been operating in the Middle East since August as part of an effort to deter Iranian aggression in critical waterways around the region, including the Gulf of Oman and the Strait of Hormuz.
Meanwhile, Austin’s order to prepare troops for possible deployment does not mean they will definitely deploy, or that they will serve in a combat role if they go to Israel, officials said. But officials said the secretary’s decision shortened the amount of time the troops identified would have to be ready for duty if they were ordered to go.
There was the Wall Street Journal First to report About the possibility of sending troops to Israel. Asked about the possible move, Pentagon deputy press secretary Sabrina Singh said Monday, “I don’t have much to offer at this time. I can give you more details later, but I don’t have anything to add at this time.