Israel has acceded to a U.S. request to hold off on its planned ground invasion of the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip so that American forces can position air defenses to protect troops in the region.
“The Pentagon is scrambling to deploy nearly a dozen air-defense systems to the region, including for U.S. troops serving in Iraq, Syria, Kuwait, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates,” The Wall Street Journal reported on Wednesday.
U.S. officials convinced Israel to wait until those deployments are completed, which could be as soon as this week.
Israel is also taking into consideration diplomatic efforts to provide goods to civilians in Gaza and to free the hostages seized by Hamas during its Oct. 7 massacre, U.S. and Israeli officials told the Journal.
However, Washington’s central concern is protecting its troops from missile and rocket attacks as it fears terrorist groups will up their attacks on American forces once an Israeli ground invasion begins.
There have been at least 13 such attacks in Iraq and Syria with drones and missiles recently. One American contractor was killed and one American drone was destroyed, U.S. officials said.
Two dozen U.S. military personnel sustained minor wounds from drone and rocket attacks on coalition military bases in Iraq and Syria on Oct. 18, a U.S. Central Command official told CNN on Wednesday.
On Tuesday, IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Herzi Halevi said the military’s much-anticipated ground incursion into the Gaza Strip was being delayed due to “tactical and strategic considerations.”
“The IDF is ready for the maneuver, and we will make a decision with the political echelon regarding the shape and timing of the next stage,” Halevi said during a press conference held near the border with Gaza.
“We’ve prepared for this. The IDF and the Southern Command have prepared quality offensive plans to achieve the goals of the war,” he added.
“We are making use of every minute to be even more prepared,” said Halevi. “And every minute that passes on the other side, we strike the enemy even more. Killing terrorists, destroying infrastructure, collecting more intelligence for the next stage.
“This is our country, our home, and we will defend it by every means,” the general vowed.
In preparation for an expected ground assault to destroy Hamas’s capabilities, the Israel Air Force is striking terrorist assets in Gaza “at a rate not seen in decades,” a military official said on Oct. 20.