Rapid response Marine unit headed to waters near Israel: US official

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A rapid response Marine unit is headed to the coast of Israel as the latter prepares to launch an operation against Hamas militants in Gaza, a US official said Monday.

The 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) is on its way to waters near Israel, the official said. “They haven’t been tasked with a mission,” the official told Al Arabiya English.

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Despite the latest move, US officials say there are no plans for American boots to be on the ground in Israel. There is, however, a group of US servicemembers advising and helping with hostage recovery, according to reports.

After the Hamas attacks on Israel last week, US Secretary of State Lloyd Austin ordered the deployment of two US aircraft carrier strike groups to the Eastern Mediterranean and the augmentation of fighter jets.

A senior US defense official said that those military posture increases in the Middle East were intended to serve as a deterrent signal to Iran, Lebanon’s Hezbollah and any other proxy in the region following the Hamas attack.

Washington has voiced fears that Lebanese Hezbollah could attack Israel from the north. There have been cross-border exchanges after rocket and missile attacks from Palestinian factions inside Lebanon resulted in Israeli retaliation against Hezbollah targets. At least four Hezbollah militants have been killed, according to the group.

Read more: White House concerned over Hezbollah attack, says second US aircraft carrier ready

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