A group of American special operations troops died during training operations off the coast of Cyprus when their helicopter crashed on Saturday. Unnamed US officials cited by the New York Times say the White House has sent several teams of special operators to the region amid increased tensions caused by the brutal Israeli military operation in Gaza.
The Times reported on Sunday that “The Pentagon has quietly dispatched to Cyprus commando teams from the Joint Special Operations Command, including the Army’s Delta Force and the Navy’s SEAL Team 6, to stand by in case they are needed to help evacuate American citizens from the region.”
The outlet noted that the soldiers were training in hostage rescue operations, as some Americans continue to be held captive by Hamas in Gaza. Tel Aviv has been largely unwilling to pause its military operations in Gaza to facilitate the release of hostages. Hamas says some prisoners have been killed in Israeli strikes, a claim echoed by multiple survivors of the group’s October 7 attack on Israel.
The US troops killed last weekend were aboard an MH-60 helicopter that was on a refueling training mission. American officials speaking with the Times described the soldiers as “among the aviators assigned to ferry the commandos on such clandestine [hostage rescue] missions.”
Washington has engaged in a massive military buildup in the Eastern Mediterranean in anticipation of widespread violence across the Middle East targeting Americans in reaction to the Israeli onslaught in Gaza. The Pentagon has also launched strikes on Syrian militias in recent weeks after a series of rocket attacks on US forces, claiming the groups are backed by Iran.