Three US 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, US officials, told CNN.
The officials stressed an evacuation remains an extremely remote possibility and the Obama administration is not currently planning for one, CNN said. Americans who wish to leave the region now are able to do so using commercial airlines.
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"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.
According to CNN, 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.
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 US 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 Iran.
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