The U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) is preparing troops to deploy to the Middle East as the war between Israel and Hamas continues, the Pentagon said on Oct. 17.
U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin “placed approximately 2,000 personnel and a range of units on a heightened state of readiness through a prepare to deploy order,” Sabrina Singh, a Pentagon spokeswoman, said in a statement.
The move “increases DoD’s ability to respond quickly to the evolving security environment in the Middle East.”
Ms. Singh said no decision has been made to deploy forces at this time.
Mr. Austin “will continue to assess our force posture and remain in close contact with allies and partners,” she said.
Ms. Singh had declined on Monday to confirm reports the Pentagon had chosen 2,000 troops to potentially be deployed to the Middle East to support Israel.
There are military personnel on the ground in an “advise and assist role,” focusing on hostage recovery, Ms. Singh said. She would not say how many personnel are there.
Mr. Austin previously deployed the USS Gerald R. Ford Carrier Strike Group into the region. The group includes the largest aircraft carrier in the world.
“We’ve augmented U.S. fighter aircraft squadrons in the Middle East, and the U.S. Department of Defense stands fully ready to deploy additional assets, if necessary,” Mr. Austin said on Oct. 13.
Mr. Austin recently returned from Israel where he met with his Israeli counterpart Yoav Gallant.
Mr. Gallant said he briefed Mr. Austin on strategic developments following the Hamas incursion into Israel, which left more than 1,000 Israelis dead and thousands of others wounded. Hamas terrorists also took other Israelis hostage.
“As the U.S. secretary of defense, I am here in person to make something crystal-clear: America’s support for Israel is ironclad, and I extend my deepest condolences to the Israeli people, for those killed or wounded in this terrible slaughter by Hamas,” Mr. Austin told reporters after the briefing.
“Hamas attacked at a time of global challenge, but the United States is the most powerful country in the world, and we remain fully able to project power and uphold our commitments and direct resources to multiple theaters. So we will stand with Israel even as we stand with Ukraine,” he added later.
Mr. Gallant said the U.S. deployment of assets “sends a strong message to both partners and enemies in the region.”
Mr. Austin has called Mr. Gallant each day since, including on Oct. 16.
During the call, Mr. Austin “reiterated the U.S. commitment to continue expediting security assistance and preventing conflict escalation,” Ms. Singh said in a readout.
President Joe Biden was slated to visit Israel on Wednesday to offer another sign of his administration’s support.
President Biden will “hear from Israel what it needs to defend its people,” U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken told reporters after talking with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Tel Aviv. President Biden, according to Mr. Blinken, will also hear how Israel will carry out operations in a way that minimizes civilian casualties and lets humanitarian aid into Gaza to help civilians “in a way that does not benefit Hamas.”
Israel has vowed to annihilate the Hamas movement that controls Gaza after Hamas terrorists killed some 1,300 people, mainly civilians, during a rampage through southern Israeli towns on Oct. 7—the deadliest single day in Israel’s 75-year history.
Israel has bombarded the Gaza Strip with air strikes that have killed more than 2,800 Palestinians, according to authorities there. It has imposed a total blockade on the enclave, halting food, fuel, and medical supplies, which are rapidly running out.
Scores of trucks carrying vital supplies for Gaza headed toward the Rafah crossing in Egypt on Tuesday, the only access point to the coastal enclave outside Israel’s control, but there was no clear indication that they would be able to enter.
Even if the crossing opens, most Gazans will not be let out. Egypt has said it could allow medical evacuations but rejects any mass exodus, which it says would amount to an expulsion of Palestinians from their land.
Mr. Blinken said Mr. Netanyahu had agreed to develop a plan to get humanitarian aid to Gaza civilians, but gave no details of the plan.
President Biden is also expected to meet with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi and Mahmoud Abbas, president of the Palestinian Authority, while in the Middle East.
The authority exerted limited self-rule in the Israeli-occupied West Bank but lost control of Gaza to Hamas in 2007.
Reuters contributed to this report.
From The Epoch Times