As the situation in Israel continues to deteriorate, the U.S. military is enhancing its military posture in the Eastern Mediterranean.
According to U.S. defense officials, the Pentagon has ordered the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit, or MEU, which is also special operations-capable, off the coast of Israel to respond to any contingencies.
The Marines will join two U.S. Navy aircraft carrier strike groups in the area.
The Marines Are Coming
The approximately 2,000 Marines of the 26th MEU will significantly bolster the U.S. military presence in the area. However, absent extreme unforeseen circumstances, they will play no role in fighting in the region.
The Marine unit was training in the Arabian Sea and was scheduled to take part in large-scale exercises over the following weeks.
The Israelis have been clear that they don’t want any foreign personnel to assist with combat operations or in any potential hostage rescue missions. It is, after all, an issue of national pride for the Israelis.
But the U.S. isn’t the only country sending military forces in the region. In the latest deployments of units around Israel, the Netherlands announced that it is sending 200 marines and two C-130 transport aircraft to Cyprus as a security measure due to the deteriorating situation in Israel.
Thus far, the terrorist attacks have killed approximately 1,400 Israelis, in what is the deadliest incident for the Jewish nation since the Holocaust and the end of World War Two. According to the White House, 31 U.S. citizens have been killed in the fighting, while 13 remain unaccounted for.
The Palestinians are suffering too. The war between Israel and Hamas has killed over 3,000 people in Gaza and wounded more than 10,000. On Tuesday, what was likely a failed Palestinian rocket launch struck a hospital in Gaza City, killing and wounding hundreds.
The situation on the ground continues to deteriorate after an explosion in a hospital in Gaza City that killed and wounded hundreds of people.
Initial reports indicated that the explosion was the result of an Israeli airstrike. However, Tel Aviv was quick to deny culpability, claiming that the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, a terrorist group affiliated with Hamas, was responsible.
The Israelis have released footage from the ground and signals intelligence between Hamas operatives that show that the Palestinian Islamic Jihad launched a salvo behind the hospital and that one of the rockets failed and fell on the thousands of people who had found shelter in and around the medical facility. The Israelis focus on the absence of a crater that would indicate the explosion of a bomb. Further corroborating the Israeli account is a U.S. intelligence assessment that puts the Palestinian Islamic Jihad as responsible for the explosion.
“While we continue to collect information, our current assessment, based on analysis of overhead imagery, intercepts and open source information, is that Israel is not responsible for the explosion at the hospital in Gaza yesterday,” National Security Council spokesperson Adrienne Watson said.
For its part, Palestinian Islamic Jihad is blaming the Israelis but hasn’t provided any proof to substantiate its claims.
A 19FortyFive Defense and National Security Columnist, Stavros Atlamazoglou is a seasoned defense journalist specializing in special operations and a Hellenic Army veteran (national service with the 575th Marine Battalion and Army HQ). He holds a BA from the Johns Hopkins University, an MA from the Johns Hopkins’ School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS), and is pursuing a J.D. at Boston College Law School. His work has been featured in Business Insider, Sandboxx, and SOFREP.