Pentagon: 120 US military personnel moved from Israel ‘out of an abundance of caution’
The Pentagon on Thursday confirmed reports that it pulled 120 U.S. military personnel from Israel.
Defense Department press secretary John Kirby said the U.S. Central Command and U.S. European Command staffers flew aboard a C-17 military aircraft and arrived in Ramstein Air Base in Germany earlier on Thursday.
“We made this decision to remove these individuals in coordination with our Israeli counterparts,” Kirby told reporters at the Pentagon.
“These people from throughout the department were in Israel for a routine planning event” dealing with an upcoming military exercise, he added.
The planning conference — a routine practice to work through the details of any major military exercise — was already scheduled to wrap up by the end of the week but the Pentagon accelerated the staff’s departure by a few days.
“Out of an abundance of caution and good prudence … we ended that planning conference a little early and got them safely to Germany,” he said.
He was not aware of any other plans or efforts to further remove other Americans from Israel as of now.
CNN first reported on the early withdrawal, with one Pentagon official telling the network that continuing violence and limited commercial flight options propelled the decision.
Violence between Israel and the Gaza Strip has been steadily rising over the past week, raising fears it could spill over into other parts of the region.
The Israeli military has built up its presence along the border with the Gaza Strip, with Jerusalem not ruling out a ground offensive into the enclave to stop rocket attacks from Hamas, the armed group that controls the small strip of land.
Hamas said the rockets were a response to the Israeli police firing stun grenades inside one of the city’s holiest sites, the Al-Aqsa mosque, on Monday.
Israel’s possible eviction of several Palestinian families from their homes in the Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah has also spurred unrest.
And earlier on Thursday three rockets were fired from Lebanon toward Israel but landed into the Mediterranean Sea off the coast. No group immediately claimed responsibility for the latest attack.