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U.S. rushes warships to Israel

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
November 20th, 2012
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

The U.S. has sent warships to stand by off the coast of Israel, should Americans need to evacuate the region. Despite this move, officials say there is only a small chance they will be needed for an evacuation.

TEL AVIV, ISRAEL (Catholic Online) - Although the latest reports suggest the conflict in Gaza could be winding down, amid intense truce negotiations, the U.S. is taking no chances with the safety of its citizens, moving warships to help evacuate them if needed.

Officials stress they think the possibility is remote, however they describe the move as "due diligence."

They also stressed the ships were not intended for any combat role and that the U.S. would not enter the hostilities in any capacity.

The ships sent to Israel are the USS Iwo Jima, the USS New York, and the USS Gunston Hall. The ships were outside of the Mediterranean last week, but as hostilities began between Israel and Hamas in the Gaza strip, an order was given to send the ships back toward Israel.

This was bad news for the 2,500 sailors and families involved, who had previously planned to return just after Thanksgiving. Now their plans are on hold as the conflict resolves itself.

The U.S. Navy maintains a strategic presence in the Mediterranean and keeps ships ready in the event of crisis. For several months, a small U.S. fleet has taken up station off the coast of Israel to help protect the country from a possible ballistic missile attack from Iran.

Truce negotiations are under way and both sides are being pressured to halt the conflict. The current spat began when Israel targeted and killed the overall military commander for Hamas, prompting retaliation. Hamas has since fired hundreds of rockets into Israel, and Israel has responded with a sweeping series of airstrikes designed to neutralize Hamas rocket capability.

Scores of civilians, particularly in Gaza, have been killed by the strikes.

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