The Pentagon announced that it will redeploy one of its strike groups to the Central Command area of responsibility, which includes the Persian Gulf. The Saturday announcement also noted the Pentagon will send additional air defense systems to the region.
The decision comes as Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the U.S. expects the Israel-Hamas conflict to escalate via Iranian proxies and is ready to respond if American personnel or armed forces are targeted.
“This is not what we want, not what we're looking for. We don't want escalation,” Blinken said Sunday. "We don't want to see our forces or our personnel come under fire. But if that happens, we're ready for it.”
Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin says he has also placed additional U.S. troops on "prepare to deploy orders" without giving an exact head count.
"We're concerned about potential escalation. In fact, what we're seeing is the prospect of a significant escalation of attacks on our troops and our people throughout the region," Austin told ABC News. "And because of that, we're going to do what's necessary to make sure that our troops are in the right position, they're protected, and that we have the ability to respond."
Earlier this week, Secretary Austin ordered 2,000 troops to be prepared to deploy to the region, stating that the U.S. will do everything to protect its troops in the region.
On Sunday, Israel evacuated 14 additional communities near the northern border with Lebanon in response to increasing threats from Hezbollah. The Iranian-backed militant group has been carrying out attacks, using anti-tank missiles, rockets, mortars, and small fire arms since the conflict began. A top official with Hezbollah vowed that Israel will pay a high price whenever it starts a ground offensive in the Gaza Strip, according to theAssociated Press.
Meanwhile, the Israeli military is stepping up attacks in Hamas-controlled Gaza, vowing to continue to attack targets that could be considered a threat to its ground forces. Israel is widely expected to launch a major ground offensive into Gaza to “demolish” Hamas since it launched a surprise attack on Israel earlier this month, killing 1,400 Israelis including civilians according to Israeli officials. Palestinians have also received new warnings from Israel’s military to move from northern Gaza to the south, according to reports from Al Jazeera.
As for the humanitarian crisis in Gaza, on Saturday, 20 trucks carrying humanitarian aid entered Gaza from Egypt, by way of the Rafah border, marking the first delivery of life-saving supplies to reach Gazans since the Israel-Hamas conflict began. On Sunday, the United Nations reported another 14 aid vehicles had crossed the border.
On X, UN Under-Secretary-General Martin Griffiths said the number of trucks crossing the border is not enough.
“Another small glimmer of hope for the millions of people in dire need of humanitarian aid. But they need much more, much more,” said Griffiths.
According to Reuters, US officials say at least 100 trucks per day are needed to bring an adequate amount of aid into Gaza.
More than 1.4 million people in Gaza are displaced, with more than 540,000 staying in emergency shelters.
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