The US has dispatched Marines to bolster security at US diplomatic facilities around the Middle East, Hadashot TV news reported Saturday citing a CNN report, two days ahead of the opening of the US Embassy in Jerusalem.
The deployment of Marines, the Israeli TV report said, came because of fears of disturbances related to the opening of the embassy. For weeks, thousands of Gazans have been protesting at the border with Israel, encouraged by Hamas, the terror group that rules the Strip, whose leaders have vowed to ratchet up protests to coincide with the embassy opening.
Demonstrations against the US move have been held in recent days in Tunisia, Jordan, and Indonesia.
CNN reported earlier Saturday that, “For weeks, the State Department has been working to bolster security at US diplomatic posts around the Muslim world in advance of the embassy move.”
It said officials anticipate possible violence even though “they say the issue no longer galvanizes the Mideast the way it once did. The embassy move, they say, will eventually lead to greater regional stability.”
When US President Donald Trump announced in December that he recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and would relocate the embassy, there were immediate reports of Marine deployment.
The Marine Corps Times noted at the time that Marine units were standing by to reinforce embassy security, ready for a State Department call. “The Marine Security Augmentation Unit consists of about 120 Marine security guards, whom ambassadors, chiefs of mission or regional security officers can summon directly,” it said.
The MSAU, it reported, “typically deploys in squad-sized teams, but in July 2016 more than 40 Marine security guards with the unit deployed to the US Embassy in Juba, South Sudan, amid fierce fighting between rival factions. Marine security guards are stationed at embassies and are tasked with safeguarding classified material. As of May 2016, about 175 US diplomatic facilities in nearly 150 countries were guarded by Marines.”
Israeli army and Marine forces regularly train together to tackle terrorist threats.
Security in Jerusalem has been bolstered ahead of the embassy opening, and for Jerusalem Day on Sunday, when Israel celebrates 51 years of the city’s reunification. “Moving the embassy is a matter of both national and international importance, and police have been preparing accordingly in recent months,” a police official said Friday.
The official told the Ynet website that thousands of uniformed police and Border Police officers will be deployed throughout Jerusalem starting Sunday. He said the officers will secure the perimeter of the US embassy during the Monday opening, assist in securing the visiting American officials, and help direct traffic.
Part of the preparations for the embassy ceremony have included carrying out “overt and covert operations against anyone who intended to disrupt or damage the ceremony,” he said.
Concurrently, Jewish and Israeli institutions abroad are also ramping up security out of fears that Iran will launch an attack after the IDF earlier this week struck dozens of its military sites in Syria in response to a barrage of Iranian rockets launched at Israel.
According to Ynet, synagogues, Jewish schools, and community centers have employed additional security measures, and Israeli diplomats have also been ordered to take caution. In a number of particularly sensitive countries where Israel has a diplomatic presence, the Foreign Ministry has requested additional security from the local government.
The report said that some officials fear that since Iran failed to launch a single rocket into Israeli territory in its attack early Thursday morning, Tehran may employ one of its proxy groups in Africa or Asia to attack Israelis or Jews in retaliation.
US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman on Friday gave a first glimpse of the new US embassy in Jerusalem, showing off workers erecting the official seal on the building and preparing for the opening ceremony.
Trump on Friday hailed the “big week” of the impending move of the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
“Big week next week when the American Embassy in Israel will be moved to Jerusalem. Congratulations to all!” Trump tweeted.
Big week next week when the American Embassy in Israel will be moved to Jerusalem. Congratulations to all!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 11, 2018
Trump will deliver a video address for the opening of the new embassy, senior administration officials told reporters Friday morning.
Among the administration members attending are John J. Sullivan, the deputy secretary of state, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, US Special Envoy Jason Greenblatt, Trump’s senior adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner, and daughter Ivanka Trump.
The new US embassy will open with an initial staff of at least 50, according to senior Trump administration officials previewing the highly anticipated opening on May 14.
Roughly 800 guests will attend the opening ceremony. Officials say the US delegation doesn’t plan to meet any Palestinian officials during their visit.
Initial embassy staff will include Friedman’s aides and US consular officers already working at the site. The embassy is opening in part of a pre-existing American visa-and-passport facility with a fraction of the total US personnel in Israel.
Friedman is expected to split his time between the new embassy in Jerusalem and his offices in Tel Aviv.
Friedman asserted Friday morning that relocating the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem advances America’s interests and was not part of any “give and take” with Israel.
“It was an American interest to open the embassy,” he said. “The Israelis were obviously desirous of this and they requested this — they’re very happy by it — but the decision was made because it seemed to be in the best interests of the United States [and] it was something the president promised during the campaign. There was no give and take with Israel in regards to this decision.”
On December 6, Trump announced that the US would move its embassy to Jerusalem. Israel has expressed hopes that other countries will follow suit, though the move was widely condemned in the international community. So far Guatemala and Paraguay have announced they will emulate the US.
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas fiercely criticized Trump’s decision. Since then, PA officials have refused to meet with members of the Trump administration, including Vice President Pence when he visited the region earlier this year.
Palestinians have been planning widespread protests against the move. There have also been demonstrations across the Arab and Muslim world.
Initially, the opening of a new Jerusalem embassy was expected to take up to three years. In February, the Trump administration said it would expedite the process by converting an existing US compound in the southern Jerusalem neighborhood of Arnona.
Trump said at a Thursday night rally he rejected initial plans by staff for an entirely new embassy in Jerusalem that would have cost $1 billion and taken up to 10 years to build.