Germany readies elite forces for possible Gaza op – Bild
The German government has decided to deploy some of the nation’s top Special Forces units to Cyprus as it prepares for potential crisis situations in Israel, Gaza, and the Middle East, the tabloid Bild reported on Wednesday, citing security sources.
The German Army’s Special Forces Command (KSK) has been deployed to the island nation in the Eastern Mediterranean, Bild said, adding that the Navy Special Forces (KSM) unit, also known as combat swimmers, was deployed to the area as well. The federal police Special Forces unit specializing in rescuing hostages (GSG 9) was sent there as well, the tabloid reported.
According to Bild, Berlin is preparing for “all scenarios” amid a continued escalation between Israel and the Gaza-based Palestinian Hamas militant group. The conflict broke out after Hamas launched a massive attack against Israel, barraging it with rockets and briefly overrunning Israeli settlements located not far from Gaza. The attack and the follow-up clashes between the militants and the Israeli military claimed the lives of more than 1,400 Israelis, mostly civilians, according to authorities.
The militants also took more than 200 people hostage during their raid, Hamas has confirmed. According to Bild, there is a “double-digit number” of German citizens among the captives. The Special Forces could potentially be used to rescue them, the tabloid said, adding that the units could also be deployed to evacuate German citizens working in Gaza or even to help Germans get out of Lebanon if the conflict between Israel and Hamas spreads into its territory.
All the necessary equipment as well as several military transport aircraft, including the Airbus A400M Atlas and Lockheed C-130 Hercules, were transported to Cyprus as well, according to Bild. The government had allegedly already informed the relevant parliamentary committees about its preparations, the media outlet said.
“We are ready for a cold start and prepared for all options,” Berlin said, according to Bild. A “cold start” in the language of the German military means a high state of readiness that would allow the units to be immediately deployed to a relevant area and become operational without any additional preparations.
The news came as tensions around Gaza continued to run high. On Tuesday, a strike on a hospital in Gaza killed more than 500 people, according to the local health authorities. Many Muslim nations immediately blamed the incident on Israel, which strongly denied any connection to the attack and, in turn, blamed it on the local Palestinian militant groups. On Wednesday, massive anti-Israeli demonstrations were held in many nations across the Middle East and North Africa. Protesters took to the streets from Morocco to Iran.
Amid the outcry, US President Joe Biden visited Tel Aviv, where he vowed unwavering support for Israel and also denied that Israel, a key US ally, is responsible for Tuesday’s strike on the hospital.