According to four people familiar with the U.S. government’s contingency planning, the Biden administration is now apparently preparing for the potential that hundreds of thousands of American citizens will need to be evacuated from the Middle East if the killing in Gaza cannot be stopped.
The possibility of such an operation arises as Israeli forces get ready for what is anticipated to be a dangerous ground onslaught against Hamas militants responsible for the startling cross-border strike that has rekindled hostilities, with assistance from U.S. weapons and military advisers.
The officials said Americans living in Israel and neighboring Lebanon are of particular concern, but they emphasized that an evacuation of that magnitude is considered a worst-case scenario and that other outcomes are seen as more likely.
The officials spoke on the condition of anonymity to detail internal deliberations.
According to three people involved with the discussions, the administration has recently focused on the challenging logistics of having to rapidly relocate a sizable number of people.
When Hamas attacked, there were roughly 600,000 American citizens in Israel and an additional 86,000 people who were reportedly in Lebanon.
Hezbollah, a political party and militant organization that, along with allies, presently holds the biggest number of parliamentary seats, is the main cause for fear in Lebanon.
In 1992, it became a law. As a result of its long-standing acceptance of Iranian training and supplies, there are worries that it could strike Israel from the north, resulting in a two-front war that would tax Israeli forces.
There have already been clashes along their common border.
Top U.S. officials have been reluctant to speak publicly about such contingency preparation in an effort to prevent causing fear among Americans living in the area.
However, in recent days, they have changed their stance to reflect their concern about new players entering the conflict.
The warning was issued in reaction to protests that broke out in the wake of the Israel-Hamas conflict and larger Arab outrage over Washington’s complete political, economic, and military support of Israel.
The estimated 3,400 troops stationed in Iraq and Syria are particularly exposed; earlier in the day, American forces stationed close to the Jordanian border intercepted at least two one-way attack drones, according to officials.