US sends USS Wasp assault ship and Marines to eastern Mediterranean

US sends USS Wasp assault ship and Marines to eastern Mediterranean
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(EUROPE) — The U.S. Navy amphibious assault ship USS Wasp and the Marines aboard are being sent to the eastern Mediterranean to serve as a deterrent and provide the U.S. military with options as tensions continue to rise between Hezbollah and Israel along the border with Lebanon, according to three U.S. officials.

The officials stressed that the ship’s movement is not an indication that the U.S. is planning to move American citizens out of Lebanon, but that it is moving for deterrence reasons similar to the earlier deployments of the amphibious ship USS Bataan and the aircraft carrier USS Gerald Ford following Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack against Israel.

Currently on a scheduled deployment to Europe, the Wasp’s transit toward the eastern Mediterranean will serve to deter the war between Hamas and Israel from becoming a broader regional conflict, U.S. officials said.

The ship’s move “is being done for deterrence purposes and to promote regional stability,” said one of the officials.

The Wasp will be joined in the eastern Mediterranean by the USS Oak Hill, which has already been operating in the Mediterranean. The USS New York, the third ship that makes up the Wasp’s Amphibious Ready Group, will soon join the other two ships in the eastern Mediterranean. a U.S. official said.

Amphibious Ready Groups and the 2,200 Marines aboard are trained for a wide variety of missions, including the evacuation of large numbers of American citizens from conflict zones.

The Wasp is currently equipped with AV-8 Harrier jets and helicopters, but it is not currently carrying tilt-rotor MV-22 Osprey aircraft that can transport personnel over long distances and which would typically be used to transport a large number of people.

Another U.S. official stressed that the Wasp’s movement toward the eastern Mediterranean is intended to provide American leaders with options. and that no decision has been made for the ship and its Marines to assist American citizens to leave Lebanon.

Recent weeks have seen an escalation in the clashes between Israeli and Hezbollah forces along the border between Israel and Lebanon. increasing concerns that Israel could soon be engaged in a second war.

U.S. efforts to secure a diplomatic resolution to the tensions along that border have so far been unsuccessful.

“We will not accept Hezbollah troops and military formations on the border with Israel,” Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant told reporters on Tuesday. “We will not accept threats to our northern communities.”

“We are willing to do everything in our power to protect our people,” he added. “We don’t want to get into a war because it’s not good for Israel.”

The USS Wasp carries most of the 2,200 Marines from the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) that left the U.S. in May for its deployment to the Sixth Fleet’s area of operations in Europe. The remaining Marines from the 24th MEU are distributed aboard the USS Oak Hill and the USS New York.

Earlier Thursday, the U.S. Navy had announced that the Wasp had transited through the Strait of Gibraltar to enter the Mediterranean Sea after having participated in a large exercise in the Baltic Sea.

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