US special forces were reported to be on their way to the Israeli war zone last night as America’s military build-up gathered strength.
The 2,400 fighters of the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit quietly peeled away from their planned military exercise in Kuwait as the US stands by for a possible rescue attempt of more than 150 hostages kidnapped by Hamas.
The USS Gerald R. Ford has already arrived in the eastern Mediterranean at the head of a carrier strike group and the White House confirmed on Wednesday that the USS Dwight D Eisenhower group is set to join it to deter any intervention by Iran.
But the prospect of direct US involvement grew with the deployment of the 26th who were among the first US forces into Afghanistan after 9/11.
Hours after they arrived for their two-week deployment a corps officially confirmed to Military Times that the unit are ‘no longer in vicinity of Kuwait as a result of emerging events’.
The corps boasts command, ground combat, aviation combat and logistics combat elements
The unit was one of the first to fight in the Iraq War conducting operations in Erbil and Mosul
It’s commander Colonel Dennis Sampson is a third generation United States Marine raised in Cincinnati, Ohio
‘As a crisis response force, we stand ready,’ she added.
The news broke after military officials revealed that US ‘door kickers’ under Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) have been put on alert in a nearby European country.
The command includes the Army’s Delta Force which has previously undertaken hostage rescue missions, and the Navy’s SEAL Team Six – which was dispatched to kill Osama bin Laden.
Hamas spokesman Abu Obaida warned on Monday that the group would start executing its hostings if Israel targeted people in Gaza without warning.
Another spokesperson told CNN on Wednesday night that it is too early to exchange Israeli hostages while Israel continues to strike Gaza.
‘We will only discuss this issue when the Israeli aggression against our people ends,’ he added.
Twenty-two Americans are known to have died in the Hamas attack and 17 are still missing, but the White House believes very few are being hero in Gaza.
‘Right now, we think the number that we are what we believe are held hostage is very small, very small, like less than a handful,’ said national security spokesman John Kirby on Wednesday.
‘But that could change over time. We’re going to get more information.’
Israeli officials admit they have no idea where in Gaza the 150 hostages are being held as the Palestinian enclave endures near constant air raid bombardment
The unit was due to be participating in two weeks of Marine Air-Ground task force training exercises in Kuwait
A representative said ‘As a crisis response force, we stand ready,’ as she confirmed their redeployment
The United States has deployed a carrier strike group led by the USS Gerald R. Ford, the world’s largest warship, to the eastern Mediterranean in response to the unprecedented attack by Hamas on Israel. The USS Dwight D Eisenhower group is now set to join it
The unit was given orders to ‘prepare for further tasking as a result of emerging events’
But commanders refused to say where exactly they were heading out of concern for ‘operational safety’
The group was deployed to northern Iraq near Makhmur in 2016 to support Iraqi forces in their eventual offensive to liberate Mosul from Islamic State
‘We want to get these all the hosts back, particularly the Americans. Now where they are and in what condition unfortunately, we don’t know. And that makes efforts very, very difficult and again in these early hours.
He said he didn’t know if they were held in a single group or broke up into several.
‘We don’t know if they’re being moved in, with what frequency and to what locations, all of those questions we’re working on.
He was also non-specific about what intermediaries could get involved, but noted Qatar has ‘open lines of communication’ with Hamas.
‘So of course, we’re testing the waters as you expect,’ he said.
It came after Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said the US had also sent hostage negotiators who will assist Israeli authorities with the ‘intelligence and planning’ for potential operations involving hostage rescue efforts.
He also confirmed that the Pentagon has a ‘liaison cell’ in Israel working with the country’s special operations forces.
Three thousand extra US sailors and marines had already been dispatched to the Middle East weeks before Hamas militants stormed out of Gaza on October 7, killing more than 1,200 Israelis in the country’s worst ever terror attack.
The Department of Defense said the August deployment would counter ‘recent attempts by Iran to seize commercial ships in the CENTCOM area of operations’.
‘We’ve moved the US carrier fleet to the Eastern Mediterranean, and we’re sending more fighter jets there to that region, and made it clear to the Iranians: Be careful,’ President Biden said on Wednesday.
‘Already we’re surging additional military assistance to the Israeli Defense Force, including ammunition, interceptors to replenish the Iron Dome.’