The Pentagon has evacuated 120 military and civilian personnel who had been in Israel for planned upcoming joint exercises, CNN's Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr is reporting.
She says the US personnel departed from Tel Aviv under emergency circumstances given the closure of commercial air travel and the worsening security situation as fighting intensifies between Israel and Hamas militants in Gaza. "The group left on a C-17 Thursday returning to Germany. With violence and lack of commercial air, the decision was made leave early via military transport," the CNN corresponded reported.
In the past few years especially, limited numbers of US troops have routinely engaged in war drills and missile readiness exercises on Israeli soil. Reuters and The Jerusalem Post have confirmed the rerouting of all inbound flights after rockets fired out of Gaza landed in the area of Ben Gurion international airport.
"Ben-Gurion Airport began rerouting all inbound flights to Ramon International Airport in southern Israel on Thursday morning, as terrorist groups in the Gaza Strip continued to launch rockets into Israeli territory," they reported. "Departing flights will still take off from Ben-Gurion Airport."
Most if not all major US carriers have canceled all flights into Israel: "United Airlines, Delta Airlines and American Airlines have canceled flights between the United States and Tel Aviv, according to data by flight tracker FlightAware, amid an escalating conflict in Israel."
Iron Dome interceptions seen moments ago from view of international flight coming into Israel. pic.twitter.com/KwtMDglV00— Israel Breaking (@IsraelBreaking) May 12, 2021
Meanwhile, the defense ministry has reportedly called up an additional thousands of IDF reservists as at this point over 1,500 rockets from Hamas have been fired into southern and central Israel.
Israeli commanders have further prepared a "battle plan" for a possible ground invasion of Gaza amid the mustering of extra troops on the border, per US-funded VOA News, which writes, "Israel’s military commanders have drafted a battle plan for an incursion into Gaza and planned to submit it to military chiefs later Thursday, a spokesman for the Israeli Defense Forces has confirmed."
"IDF spokesperson Hidai Zilberman told local media in a briefing that preparations for the possibility of a ground incursion are under way. The IDF has deployed additional ground troops — from the Paratroopers Brigade, Golani Infantry Brigade and 7th Armored Brigade — to the Gaza border, along with tanks and armored personnel carriers," the report said further.
The Israeli army sends armored vehicles to the Gaza border region. pic.twitter.com/2dedsNhI8Z— Ali Özkök (@Ozkok_A) May 13, 2021
Indeed social media videos over the past two days of fighting have appeared to show tank columns being transported to southern Israel. On Wednesday night Israel's Security Cabinet approved expanding operations in Gaza, especially the airstrikes which are expected to continue through the week, and possibly longer.