US warships spent a month on alert in Red Sea ahead of embassy move

Thousands of Marines were on high alert to respond within two hours should violence break out.

By
September 15, 2019 08:36
2 minute read.
Red Sea

The Red Sea. (photo credit: PIXABAY)

An American amphibious assault ship with more than a thousand Marines on board was on high alert in the Red Sea for a month last year to provide a quick reaction force in case of violence in Arab capitals over the controversial US embassy move to Jerusalem.

Marines from the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) were on the Wasp-class amphibious assault ship USS Iwo Jima last May on an “elevated crisis response posture” in response to the move, The Marine Times reported quoting a command chronology of a MEU document.

According to the MEU, it focused on “high-risk embassies” in Amman, Beirut and Cairo. The Marines were on standby to provide troops within two to six hours should violence break out and they were needed to evacuate personnel.

A month before the move, the 1,500 sailors and 1,800 Marines aboard the Iwo Jima and USS Oak Hill took part in the Eager Lion exercise in Jordan in a drill simulating an embassy reinforcement and noncombatant evacuation operation.

“Eager Lion allows us to practice key mission essential tasks that span the range of military operations to resolve conflict and conduct combat operations against an enemy in remote, austere environments that would otherwise be inaccessible,” Marine Corps Col. Farrell Sullivan, commanding officer of the 26th, MEU was quoted as saying in a statement on the drill by the US Department of Defense.

According to the statement “the Iwo Jima Amphibious Ready Group MEU includes Iwo Jima, the transport dock ship USS New York, Oak Hill, Fleet Surgical Team 4 and 8, Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron 28, Tactical Air Control Squadron 22, components of Naval Beach Group 2 and the embarked staff of the commander of Amphibious Squadron 4.”

Ahead of the move, the IDF reinforced troops in the West Bank in anticipation of riots following US President Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

Following Trump’s statement, the US State Department called on all American diplomatic personnel to defer all nonessential travel to Israel, Jerusalem and the West Bank. The State Department had earlier warned government officials and citizens from Jerusalem’s Old City and the West Bank “until further notice.”

Trump moved the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem in May 2018, a controversial move that led to deadly clashes between Palestinians and IDF forces in the Gaza Strip and violence in the West Bank. The violence in Gaza leading up to the opening of the embassy claimed the lives of 58 Palestinians and injured over 2,000 more.


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