The United States is preparing evacuation plans for up to 600,000 Americans in Israel in the event of a full-scale ground war in the region.
US officials have created contingency plans involving a major exodus of American citizens from the area, as Israel is poised to send ground troops into the Gaza Strip.
The Biden administration believes it “would be irresponsible not to have a plan for everything,” although a full-scale airlift is still thought to be a worst case scenario, according to the Washington Post.
The State Department believes there are around 600,000 American citizens in Israel, although many are dual nationals.
Another 86,000 were believed to be in Lebanon when Hamas launched terror attacks on October 7, killing 1,400 people in Israel.
The UK and other Western states are also in contact with their nationals in the region, and both the State Department and British Foreign Office have advised against travel to both Israel and Gaza.
Both the US and UK have urged other groups that are sympathetic to Hamas in the region against launching further attacks on Israel and escalating the conflict beyond Gaza.
Israeli forces have already clashed with Hezbollah terrorists on the Israeli-Lebanese border in response to copycat attacks following Hamas’s assault on October 7.
US forces stationed in Syria have also come under fire from suicide drones operated by Iran-backed Islamist groups.
Lloyd Austin, the US Defense Secretary, has expressed concern about an increase in attacks on US forces in Syria, in an apparent response to the conflict between Hamas and the IDF.
“What we’re seeing is a prospect of a significant escalation of attacks on our troops and our people throughout the region, and because of that, we’re going to do what’s necessary to make sure that our troops are in a good position, and they’re protected, and that we have the ability to respond,” he told ABC News on Sunday.
Last week, the US administration warned all US citizens worldwide of “increased tensions in various locations around the world, the potential for terrorist attacks, demonstrations or violent actions against US citizens and interests.”
It is possible that US, UK or other Western nationals could be removed from the Middle East using US Navy ships stationed in the Eastern Mediterranean.
Suzanne Maloney, the director of foreign policy at the Brookings Institute, told the Washington Post: “With 600,000 Americans in Israel and threats to other Americans across the region, it’s hard to think of an evacuation that might compare to this in scale, scope and complexity.”
The UK Government has previously used military resources, including RAF transporter aircraft, to extract British nationals from warzones.
Following the collapse of the Afghan government in August 2021, the Ministry of Defence and Foreign Office coordinated a major airlift of UK citizens from Kabul, as the city fell to the Taliban.
Last week, the Government said more than 900 people had been evacuated from Israel by air, as commercial flights become increasingly difficult to find.
British Airways, EasyJet, Ryanair, Wizz Air, Air France, Lufthansa and Emirates have suspended their services
Despite a slew of rocket attacks from Hamas, Israeli airspace is currently still open and it remains a commercial decision for individual carriers to fly to the country.