At least two more Navy ships carrying thousands of Marines are heading to the Israeli coast to help in any potential U.S. response to the fighting on the ground between Hamas and Israel, two Defense Department officials said Monday evening.
The USS Bataan Amphibious Ready Group, including up to 2,400 Marines from the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit, will stage in the eastern Mediterranean Sea in the event they are ordered to evacuate Americans caught in the fighting.
While no formal order to station off the coast has been given, the officials said, the ships are moving in that direction from the Persian Gulf with the expectation that the order will come soon given the worsening situation in Israel, where hundreds of American citizens are in danger of being trapped by the fighting between Israel and Hamas.
The Marines would be tasked with any evacuation of American citizens from Israel, Gaza or Lebanon, and can also provide medical assistance if needed, the official added. The DOD officials were granted anonymity to discuss future operations.
The amphibious assault ship USS Bataan and amphibious dock landing ship USS Carter Hall can launch watercraft to ferry people from the shore back to the ships.
CNN first reported the movement of the Marines and the two ships.
Marines are also aboard the USS Mesa Verde, a third Navy amphibious ship that left its home port in Spain on Monday. A Navy official confirmed the ship had gotten underway, but would not say if it was ordered to join other Navy vessels near Israel.
The Marine ships would join one carrier strike group already on station — the USS Gerald R. Ford — and potentially a second. The USS Dwight D. Eisenhower left its homeport in Virginia on Saturday on a regularly scheduled deployment and has been ordered to the waters off of Israel.
Besides the carrier, the strike groups include fighter jets, cruisers and destroyers.
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