November 19th, 2012 02:34 PM ET
U.S. sends warships near Israel in case evacuation needed
By Barbara Starr
Three U.S. Navy amphibious warships are returning to the eastern
Mediterranean to remain on standby in the event they are needed to assist
Americans leaving Israel in the coming days, according to two U.S.
The officials stressed an evacuation remains an extremely remote possibility
and the Obama administration is not currently planning for one. Americans
who wish to leave the region now are able to do so using commercial
But the decision to send the ships even if the event is such a remote
contingency underscores the growing concern about where the Israel-Gaza
conflict could be headed.
"This is due diligence. It is better to be prepared should there be a need,"
one official said Monday. Both officials said the ships would be used only
for assisting Americans and not for any combat role.
The most immediate impact will be on the ships' crews and the estimated
2,500 Marines on board. They had been scheduled to return to Norfolk,
Virginia, just after Thanksgiving; their homecoming will now be delayed
several days depending on events, the officials said.
The ships involved are the USS Iwo Jima, the USS New York and the USS
Gunston Hall. At the end of last week the ships were west of Gibraltar,
before the decision was made to turn them around and send them back to the
eastern Mediterranean, where they will remain for now.
The U.S. military also maintains three to four ships off the coast of Israel
that are capable of shooting down ballistic missiles. That deployment has
stretch for some months in the face of a potential ballistic threat from
Post by: By CNN Pentagon Correspondent Barbara Starr
Filed under: Gaza • Israel • Navy • Palestine • Security Brief