The three-star American general sent to Israel to advise the country on the risks of a ground invasion of the Gaza Strip reportedly returned to the United States last week, a senior defense official confirmed on Monday.

In recent days, Israel has stepped up its ground operations in the Gaza Strip in what Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has described as the second phase of his war against Hamas. Its air force also continues to bomb targets in the enclave, causing increasing civilian casualties.

Marine Corps Lt. Gen. James Glynn, whom the Pentagon sent to Israel earlier this month to advise the Israeli military, was back in the United States Thursday night, the commander of the Marine Corps told reporters Friday. Marine Corps, General Eric Smith.

Glynn, currently vice commander of Human Resources and Reserve Affairs, was previously head of Marine Special Operations Command and had significant experience in urban warfare in Iraq, first in Fallujah in 2004 as part of Operation Iraqi Freedom II and later in Mosul to expel Islamic State militants. 

He was part of a group of U.S. military advisers sent to Israel ahead of the ground invasion of the Gaza Strip, an attempt to push officials toward using precision airstrikes and targeted special operations raids rather than engaging in a bloody urban fight.

“Jim is home; “I talked to him last night,” Smith said. “Lieutenant General Glynn went to advise him. But make no mistake: What is developing, has developed or will develop in Gaza is purely an Israeli decision.”

He added that Glynn “brought his experience as the chief planner of a first Marine expeditionary force going to the battle of Fallujah” and that what he conveyed can be “taken, [or] not taken.”

On Monday, a senior defense official confirmed Glynn’s return, stating that the trip was only temporary and was “intended to offer observations informed by extensive military experience and to pose difficult questions to the [Israel Defense Forces] as they think in various scenarios” of a ground invasion of Gaza. 

The official added: “The Israel Defense Forces, as always, will make its own decisions about its military operations. I want to be clear on this point: US military officials do not direct or advise operations.”

Israel has vowed to retaliate against Hamas for the Oct. 7 surprise attack, in which some 1,400 Israelis were killed and more than 200 hostages were captured, including several Americans. 

Since then, Israel has bombarded Gaza with rockets, reportedly killing more than 8,000 civilians, and has also called up some 360,000 reservists and stationed many of them on the border with Gaza. 

However, the United States has urged Israel not to carry out a large-scale ground assault for fear that urban combat would endanger civilians and remaining hostages, as well as aggravate tensions in the Middle East.

Ellen Mitchell