Israel agrees to U.S. request to delay Gaza invasion- WSJ

FILE PHOTO: Israeli soldiers drive in a tank by Israel's border with Gaza in southern Israel

(Reuters) -Israel has agreed to delay an expected invasion of Gaza for now so that the United States can rush missile defences to the region to protect U.S. troops there, the Wall Street Journal reported on Wednesday, citing U.S. and Israeli officials.

U.S. officials have so far persuaded Israel to hold off until U.S. air-defence systems can be placed in the region, as early as later this week, the WSJ said.

Israel is also taking into account in its planning the effort to supply humanitarian aid inside Gaza, as well as diplomatic efforts to free hostages held by Hamas militants, the news report said.

Threats to the U.S. troops were of paramount concern, it said.

Washington was scrambling to deploy nearly a dozen air defence systems, including for its troops serving in Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Syria and the United Arab Emirates, the Journal said.

The U.S. military and other officials believe their forces will be targeted by militant groups once Israel launches its ground invasion of the Hamas-ruled Palestinian territory, according to the report.

Reuters reported on Monday that Washington advised Israel to hold off on a ground assault in the Gaza Strip and is keeping Qatar - a broker with the Palestinian militants - apprised of those talks as its tries to free more hostages and prepare for a possible wider regional war.

Last week Reuters reported the Pentagon planned to send two Iron Dome missile defence systems to Israel to help it defend itself against inbound missiles, and a Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system and additional Patriot air defense missile system battalions to the Middle East.

(Reporting by Shubham Kalia in Bengaluru; Editing by Alison Williams and Howard Goller)