The Pentagon has officially extended the deployment of the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit and a Navy amphibious ready group headed by the USS Bataan in the Mediterranean Sea amid growing regional turmoil, according to a defense official.
The extension was being mulled by the department following a U.S. military buildup late last year aimed at stopping the Israel-Hamas War from spilling over. A Navy spokesperson said Wednesday that Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin directed the ships and Marines to remain in the region.
The 26th MEU, a special operations-capable Marine Corps unit, and the Bataan group originally deployed in July to deter Iranian aggression against commercial shipping vessels near the Persian Gulf. Now, after already being extended once before, the units will stay deployed as the Pentagon looks to keep Marines in the region as violence has escalated, with U.S. forces attacked by Iran-backed proxies more than 160 times in the last few months.
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The defense official told Military.com on Friday that “the Bataan ARG and 26th MEU [have] been extended in the” U.S. European Command area of operations, which includes the Mediterranean. On the far east, the sea also borders the Gaza Strip, Israel, Lebanon and Syria, where violence has spiked since the war began in October.
Shortly after the October attack by Hamas on Israel, which…