The Biden administration is readying plans for mass evacuations of American citizens from Middle East hotspots amid fears of a significant escalation of violence in the region, The Washington Post reported.
Hundreds of thousands of U.S. citizens could require rescue from Israel and Lebanon if the war between Israel and Gaza spills over into neighboring states, raising the prospect of the largest non-combat evacuation in recent memory, the Post reported, citing four U.S. officials familiar with the government’s contingency planning. Hezbollah in Lebanon and other Iran-backed militant groups throughout the Middle East have stepped up violence since the war’s onset and threatened to escalate further once Israel commences its planned ground operation in Gaza.
Although a complete evacuation of Americans at such a scale is considered among the worst-case scenarios, the administration “would be irresponsible not to have a plan for everything,” one official told the Post.
The State Department estimated roughly 600,000 U.S. citizens were living Israel and another 86,000 in Lebanon as of Oct. 7, when Hamas launched brutal terrorist attacks on Israeli communities, the Post reported.
Cross-border airstrikes between Israel and Lebanon have grown in intensity since the war started, prompting Israel to empty communities in northern Israel that are most vulnerable to Hezbollah’s attacks, The New York Times reported. Biden administration officials worry about the prospect of Hezbollah launching a full-scale attack and forcing Israel to engage in a two-front war.
The Biden administration is openly supportive of Israel’s forthcoming operations, the Post reported. However, in recent days, officials have begun contemplating the massive logistical problem of getting hundreds of thousands of U.S. citizens out of a war zone, people familiar with the discussions said.
“This has become a real issue,” one official told the Post. “The administration is very, very, very worried that this thing is going to get out of hand.”
Adding to the risk, Iran-backed militias in Iraq and Syria, after promising to engage if the U.S. militarily intervened in Israel, are now sending drones and rockets at bases housing American troops. The frequency of such attacks and rhetoric surrounding them have alarmed the Pentagon.
Marines with Battalion Landing Team 1/6, @26MEU board a CH-53E Super Stallion while embarked on the amphibious assault ship USS Bataan (LHD 5), Arabian Gulf. The Bataan Amphibious Ready Group and 26th MEU(SOC) are deployed to the U.S. 5th Fleet area of operations. @USMC pic.twitter.com/dGPylWZwJk
— II MEF (@iimefmarines) October 23, 2023
The Pentagon warned Monday that Iran and its proxy militias in the Middle East intend to escalate conflict by attacking U.S. troops based in the region.
“What has happened in the last several days is efforts by Iran and Iranian proxy forces in an attempt to escalate this conflict,” a senior defense official said Monday.
“We see a much more significant prospect for conflict in the near term,” the official continued, adding that U.S. forces are prepared for any potential escalation
The National Security Council did not immediately respond to the Daily Caller News Foundation’s request for comment.
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