A U.S. Marine rapid response force is heading to the waters off Israel’s coast and the Pentagon is preparing U.S. troops for possible deployment to the country, intensifying the U.S. show of force in the region as it strive to prevent conflict between Israel. and Hamas to expand further.
A defense official familiar with the planning said the rapid response force, made up of 2,000 Marines and sailors, was being dispatched. It will join a growing number of U.S. warships and forces converging on Israel as the United States seeks to send a message of deterrence to Iran and the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah.
On Sunday evening, U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin ordered about 2,000 troops to prepare for possible deployment to Israel to help with tasks such as medical and logistical support, several defense officials said.
Taken together, these measures aim to prevent a broader regional war, officials said. But they also risk deepening U.S. involvement in a conflict in which the Biden administration is trying to avoid direct military action.
Officials stressed that the United States does not intend to deploy American troops on the ground to fight in the war between Israel and Hamas, which Israeli officials have warned could be protracted and difficult.
But the planning and movements provide a window into what kind of assistance the United States could provide, including managing logistics outside the front lines and offering medical support. This could be particularly useful if Israel launches a ground invasion of Gaza, which could be complicated and bloody, experts have warned.
The decisions also come as the US military gradually strengthens 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 aircraft from Air Force combat in the region.
Learn more about troop preparations.