The United States withdrew 120 military personnel from Israel and is warning Americans against traveling to the region due to escalating violence in the conflict between Israel and Palestinian territory controlled by the militant group Hamas.
Defense Department spokesman John Kirby told reporters during a press briefing Thursday that the military personnel were from U.S. Central Command and European Command. They were flown out on a C-17 military transport jet to Ramstein Air Base in Germany.
“We made this decision to remove these individuals in coordination with our Israeli counterparts,” Kirby said. He added that some personnel were in Israel ahead of a planned bilateral event, but were withdrawn in response to escalating violence.
The State Department issued an updated travel advisory late Thursday urging Americans to “reconsider travel” to Israel due to the “dangerous and volatile” security environment within Gaza and along its borders. The department also noted that terrorist organizations and lone-wolf terrorists might be “plotting possible attacks in Israel, the West Bank, and Gaza.”
US State Department raises the travel advisory level for Israel, the West Bank and Gaza pic.twitter.com/UrZAajbgrc
— Elizabeth Hagedorn (@ElizHagedorn) May 13, 2021
The personnel removal and updated travel advisory came hours after the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) announced late Thursday it had deployed ground forces near the Gaza Strip. The Palestinian territory is controlled by Hamas, which the U.S. designates as a foreign terrorist organization. (RELATED: Hamas Official Reportedly Tells People To Buy Knives And Cut Jews’ Heads Off)
Hamas and other militant groups like Islamic Jihad have fired more than 1,500 rockets at Israel in the last several days, with at least seven civilian and military deaths reported. Many of the rockets were intercepted by Israel’s Iron Dome missile defense system, while some fell back into Gaza instead of Israeli territory.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said during a press conference Tuesday that Hamas and Islamic Jihad “will pay a very heavy price for their aggression,” and reaffirmed Israel’s commitment to defend itself against terrorism. President Joe Biden held a call Wednesday with Netanyahu in which he “conveyed his unwavering support” for Israel.