Monday, December 4, 2023

US Marine rapid response force moves toward eastern Mediterranean: Report

A US Marine rapid response force is moving toward the eastern Mediterranean Sea, according to two officials — amid concerns over the war in Gaza broadening into a regional conflict.

The 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit, aboard the USS Bataan amphibious assault ship, was operating in the waters of the Middle East in recent weeks, but it began making its way toward the Suez Canal late last week, the officials said on Sunday.

The Bataan is currently in the Red Sea and is expected to pass into the eastern Mediterranean soon, one official stated.

The move will place the Marine unit closer to Lebanon and Israel as the US is warning citizens to leave Lebanon. One of the typical roles of a Marine Expeditionary Unit is to help civilians evacuate.

On Tuesday, the White House announced it would be “imprudent and irresponsible” not to plan for a possible evacuation of American citizens from the Middle East, including Israel and Lebanon. But at the time, National Security Council strategic communications coordinator John Kirby said, “We’re not at a point of execution right now.”

But on Friday, as Israel expanded its ground campaign in Gaza, the US embassy in Beirut once again urged Americans to “leave now,” warning that the best time to leave a country is “before a crisis”.

Earlier this month, the US State Department raised the travel advisory level for Lebanon last week to Level 4: Do Not Travel.

The US has warned there is an “elevated risk” of the war between Israel and Hamas spilling over into a broader regional conflict, despite the efforts of the Joe Biden administration to keep the fighting contained to Gaza.

One of the highest risks comes from Israel’s northern border with Lebanon, where there is an ongoing, if still low-level, exchange of hostilities with Hezbollah.

In 2006 during the last war between Israel and Hezbollah, the State Department ordered a non-combatant evacuation for American citizens in Lebanon, ultimately evacuating approximately 15,000 Americans in about two weeks.

Amid the conflict in the Gaza Strip between Israeli troops and Hamas, tension has flared along the border between the Israeli-occupied territories and Lebanon, with exchanges of fire between Israeli forces and Hezbollah.

Hezbollah and the Israeli regime have been exchanging sporadic fire since October 8, a day after the Zionist regime started bringing the Palestinian territory of the Gaza Strip under a relentless and indiscriminate war.

The Lebanese resistance movement has announced the group’s “guns and rockets” were with Palestinian fighters, and stressed that it will intensify its attacks against Israel if necessary.

Defense Minister Yoav Gallant has told senior Israeli officials that Hezbollah is “ten times stronger than Hamas”, Israel’s Kan public broadcaster has reported.

US President Joe Biden and his aides have advised Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu not to launch pre-emptive strikes against Hezbollah in Lebanon, The New York Times daily newspaper has reported.

Hezbollah has already fought off two Israeli wars against Lebanon in 2000 and 2006, forcing a humiliating retreat upon the Tel Aviv regime’s military in both cases.

The resistance movement has vowed to resolutely defend Lebanon in case of any Israeli-imposed war.

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