In a recent move aimed at prioritizing the safety and security of top Department of Defense officials and members of Congress, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin has ordered a temporary suspension of Pentagon flights to Israel. This decision comes in response to the escalating intensity of military conflict in the region.
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Historically, the DoD has been responsible for providing aircraft and logistical support when members of Congress undertake overseas travel, including visits to conflict zones. However, the current situation has prompted a reevaluation of these practices and is effective immediately until further notice.
Announcing the move in a memo, Austin stated, “I hereby restrict visits by DoD senior leaders to Israel.” Any senior DOD leader seeking to travel to Israel during this period must obtain direct authorization from either Secretary Austin or the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, depending on their position.
“I further discourage visits to Israel requiring DoD support by members of Congress and their staffs. I hereby instruct the Assistant Secretary for Legislative Affairs to inform the appropriate congressional leadership that DoD support to congressional delegation visits will be unavailable to Israel during this period, and no DoD support shall be made available for congressional travel to Israel without my approval,” Austin added.
It is crucial to note that these measures are designed to ensure the safety of American officials and do not impede the normal operational flow of personnel to the United States Central Command area of responsibility.
The restrictions, however, do not apply to certain high-ranking officials, including the president, vice president, secretary of defense, deputy secretary of defense, service chiefs and some others. Support for any desired visits to Israel by exempted officials will continue to be provided by the Pentagon.
This decision follows a distressing incident last month, in which Hamas terrorists carried out an unprecedented attack that claimed the lives of 1,400 Israelis, injured over 5,300 people, took more than 240 hostages, and left a trail of brutal violence against innocent Israeli citizens. Israel has launched a counteroffensive with air strikes, with a promise to continue until the over 200 people Hamas releases the over 200 people it is holding hostage.