US assault ship sent to eastern Mediterranean amid Israel-Hezbollah tensions

The Pentagon has sent the Navy amphibious assault ship USS Wasp with Marines aboard to the eastern Mediterranean amid rising tensions between Hezbollah and Israel along Lebanon’s border, U.S. European Command confirmed Friday.

The Wasp and the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit — which includes about 2,200 personnel — entered the Mediterranean Sea on Wednesday “on a scheduled deployment to the US Naval Forces Europe-Africa area of operations,” the command said in a Thursday statement.

The ship is intended to serve as a deterrent in the region and keep the Israel- Hamas war from becoming a broader regional conflict, EUCOM added.

Asked Friday about the ship’s movement, Pentagon deputy press secretary Sabrina Singh stressed that the deployment was scheduled and that the US was not preparing any noncombat evacuation of American citizens out of Lebanon.

“The purpose is not to conduct a type of … military assisted departure,” she told reporters. “It is there to ensure regional stability and deter aggression. It has many other capabilities — one being, if there was a need for any type of departure, it can be there to assist in that.”

The Wasp will be joined in the eastern Mediterranean by the USS Oak Hill, which is already in the waterway, and the USS New York, which is currently operating in the Atlantic Ocean. The three ships make up the Wasp’s Amphibious Ready Group, Singh said.

Amphibious Ready Groups and Marines are trained for a wide variety of missions that include the evacuation of U.S. citizens from war zones.

After trading fire across the Lebanese-Israeli border for nearly nine months, fears are growing of a full-blown conflict. The animosity stems from Hamas’s attack in Israel on Oct. 7, which set off a brutal Israeli air and ground campaign in the Gaza Strip to defeat Hamas.

Both Israel and Hezbollah have recently ratcheted up the rhetoric, with an escalation in the clashes and the Israeli government earlier this month announcing it had approved a plan for a military offensive against Hezbollah in Lebanon.

The group, meanwhile, has published propaganda videos showing drone footage over Israeli military sites and communities.

The U.S. has attempted to secure a diplomatic resolution to the skirmishes but has so far been unsuccessful.

Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant met with senior Biden administration officials on Wednesday in Washington, where he discussed the threats from Hezbollah. But he also said increasing tensions between the U.S. and Israel was emboldening Israel’s allies.

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