The White House has removed a picture shared on social media that apparently showed President Joe Biden shaking hands with American special operators in Israel during his recent visit to the country.
“In Israel, President Biden met with first responders to thank them for their bravery and the work they’re doing in response to the Hamas terrorist attacks,” was the caption to the photograph, which the White House shared on Instagram.
The service members in the photograph with Biden were not wearing any badges or insignia that identified their units, but their appearance and tactical gear were consistent with U.S. special operations forces.
The Defense Department typically does not publicly release photographs that show the full faces of U.S. special operators. On most occasions, the U.S. military obscures the faces of special operations forces in photographs.
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Officials at the Defense Department and U.S. Special Operations Command referred questions about the picture to the White House.
A White House spokesperson told Task & Purpose that the photograph had been posted by accident.
“As soon as this was brought to our attention, we immediately deleted the photo,” the spokesperson said. “We regret the error and any issues this may have caused.”
Although the White House took down the picture roughly an hour later, other pictures on Getty appear to show U.S. special operators in Israel wearing full combat gear.
U.S. government officials have repeatedly stressed that there are no current plans to put American troops on the ground in Israel. Still, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin has directed Joint Special Operations Command, U.S. Special Operations Command, and U.S. Central Command to help the Israelis plan missions to rescue hostages taken by Hamas since the Oct. 7 terror attacks.
On Thursday, Task & Purpose asked Air Force Gen. Pat Ryder, a Pentagon spokesman, if any U.S. special operations forces are currently deployed to Israel.
“I don’t have any specifics to provide for you,” Ryder said during a Pentagon news conference. “If your question is: Do we have special operations forces conducting boots on the ground operations? Again, you’ve heard us say that we are not going to have boots on the ground. We are providing planning and intelligence support to the Israelis as it pertains to the hostage recovery. That’s about the extent of what I’m able to provide right now.”
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