The recent surge of additional Marines to safeguard several American diplomatic outposts in the Middle East was not driven by recent violence surrounding the opening of the new U.S. embassy in Jerusalem, Pentagon officials said Thursday.
The surge of Marine Corps security forces American embassies in Turkey Jordan, as well as the old U.S. facility in Tel Aviv, requested by the State Department earlier this week, was part of an overall effort to maintain a basic level of security those installations, said Pentagon spokeswoman Dana White.
“This has nothing to do with Gaza,” she said, referring to the violent clashes between protesters and Israeli Defense Forces along Tel Aviv’s border with Palestinian-controlled territory along the Gaza Strip.
The more than 4,000 protesters amassed along the Gaza border were met with sniper fire from Israeli troops during the melee.
Palestinian protesters responded by hurling rocks and other debris at Israeli security forces while burning tires along the border fence line. The riots left 60 individuals dead in some of the bloodiest violence in the area since the 2014 war between Israel and Hamas.
Tel Aviv claims 50 of those killed were members of the Hamas terror group.
Monday’s violence erupted on the same day that a Trump administration delegation, led by senior White House advisers Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner, commemorated the embassy opening in Jerusalem.
As a result, State Department issued a request for additional security support at regional embassies across the Middle East, as a result of the “heightened threat environment’ posed to American diplomats in the region, Maj. Adrian Rankine-Galloway, a Defense Department spokesman, said at the time.
The security personnel units from the Marine Corps Embassy Security Group are currently in place at the embassies in Ankara, Amman and Tel Aviv, and the State Department has made no additional request for more forces, Ms. White said Thursday.
“We continue to be vigilant” over the current security environment at American embassies in the region and across the globe, Ms. White said, noting U.S. commanders will “continue to keep a sharp eye on the situation” in Israel and the Middle East.
Mr. Trump announced the decision in December to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and move the U.S. embassy there from Tel Aviv. The development triggered a joyous reaction from the nationalist government of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu while infuriating rest of the Arab world.
Other nations, most recently Russia, have recognized Jerusalem as the Israeli capital, but noted those borders only extend to the western part of the city. That delineation has always been taken in anticipation of East Jerusalem being the capital of a future Palestinian state.
Despite the embassy’s relocation to Jerusalem, the Trump White House has been adamant the ancient city’s overall boundaries should be drawn by the Israelis and Palestinians.
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