The US has ordered three amphibious warships with 2,500 Marines aboard back to the eastern Mediterranean to remain on standby off Israel’s shore in case they are needed to evacuate American citizens. The USS Iwo Jima, the USS New York and the USS Gunston Hall, were sailing west of Gibraltar on their way to back to Norfolk, Virginia, when they were turned around.
DEBKAfile reports that the United States has never before evacuated American citizens from Israel. The US notice does not say whether a possible evacuation would include the US forces posted in American bases in Israel. A mass evacuation would entail a Marine shore landing in order to lead the evacuees to the amphibious craft.
The Iwo Jima is a helicopter carrier, while the New York, one of the newest vessels of its kind in the US Navy, is a primary class of amphibious transport dock.
Although a decision to evacuate nationals was defined in the CNN report as a “remote contingency,” our sources stress that it is extreme enough to be taken only when a war situation is envisaged capable of endangering Americans.
This step negates the expectation articulated widely in Israel Monday, Nov. 19, that a ceasefire with the Hamas is within reach. It rather indicates that Washington sees the situation surrounding the Gaza Strip in a far different light, more like a situation holding the threat of a general conflagration beyond the confines of the Israel-Hamas contest in Gaza.
According to the same report, the US military also maintains three to four ships off the coast of Israel that are capable of shooting down ballistic missiles. That deployment has stretched for some months in the face of a potential ballistic threat from Iran.