The Biden administration expects the war between Israel and Hamas to expand and US personnel to be targeted, two Cabinet members have warned amid a growing US military presence in the region.
Safety concerns were raised just days after Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin announced that the United States would redeploy a strike group to the Persian Gulf and send additional air defense systems to the region. Last week, Austin ordered 2,000 soldiers to prepare for deployment to the Middle East amid rising tensions since Hamas militants stormed across the border in an attack that killed two Israeli citizens on October 7.
The Biden administration has warned Iran, Hezbollah, and other enemies of Israel to stay out of the war. But Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and Secretary of State Antony Blinken said that may not happen.
“What we see is the potential for a significant escalation of attacks on our forces and our people throughout the region,” Austin said on Sunday. “This Week” on ABC. He said US forces were doing “what is necessary” to ensure they had the ability to respond.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken echoed Austin’s concerns, saying: “Meet the Press” on NBCHe added: “We expect there to be a possibility of escalation” by Iranian proxies against American forces.
“We are taking steps to ensure that we can effectively defend our people and respond decisively if necessary,” Blinken said.
Blinken said he does not want to see a second or third front develop, which could happen if Lebanon-based Hezbollah joins the battle.
“We do not want to see our forces or personnel come under fire,” he said. “But if that happens, we are ready for that,” he added.
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The United States has urged Israel to delay its long-awaited ground invasion of Gaza to encourage hostage negotiations, improve the flow of humanitarian aid, and allow the United States to prepare for attacks on “American interests” in the region, according to multiple media reports. .
“Rapid events” since the release of two American women on Friday have prompted the Biden administration to suggest the Israelis allow time to negotiate the release of the hostages, The Times reported. The United States is also leading efforts to provide a sustained flow of aid to Gaza from Egypt. Convoys have crossed into Gaza in the past two days, but international relief teams say the flow must increase to combat the humanitarian crisis unfolding in the Strip.
Contributing: The Associated Press
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