The Defense Department is deploying 300 troops to U.S. Central Command to deter any outside groups from escalating the Israel-Hamas conflict and to protect U.S. troops already in the area against an onslaught of drone attacks from Iran-backed militia groups, the Pentagon announced Tuesday.

The 300 troops, whom a Pentagon spokesman did not identify, are part of a group of 2,000 stateside troops who have been on 24-hour prepare-to-deploy orders since earlier this month. The personnel were put on notice as part of the U.S. response to the Oct. 7 attack on Israel by the militant group Hamas.

“These additional troops will provide capabilities and explosive ordnance disposal, communications and other support enablers for forces already in the region,” Air Force Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder said during a briefing.

Ryder declined to say where in the Middle East the troops would go, “but I can confirm they are not going to Israel and that they are intended to support regional deterrence efforts and further bolster U.S. force protection capabilities,” he added.

The troops are part of a surge of thousands of U.S. personnel in the region, including two carrier strike groups, an amphibious ready group with embarked Marine Expeditionary Unit, Air Force fighter squadrons and Army air defense units.

Since Oct. 17, U.S. forces and Iraq and Syria have come under 27 drone attacks, Ryder said, 16 in Iraq and 11 in Syria.

Six of those have occurred since the U.S. on Thursday struck two facilities in Syria linked to Iran-backed militias, he said.

Most of the drones have been shot down or haven’t hit any target, he added. The Pentagon has counted 21 U.S. service member injuries so far, concentrated on Oct. 17 and Oct. 18.

Meghann Myers is the Pentagon bureau chief at Military Times. She covers operations, policy, personnel, leadership and other issues affecting service members.

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