US sends Navy carrier group and Air Force squadrons to the Middle East to support Israel

U.S. Air Force F-15E Strike Eagles assigned to the 494th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron arrive in the U.S. Central Command area of responsibility, Oct. 13, 2023. The Strike Eagles forward deployed from U.S. Air Forces in Europe and Air Forces Africa’s 48th Fighter Wing to enhance air operations and integrate with coalition allies and regional partners throughout the Middle East. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Josephine Pepin)

Matthew Medsger
Boston Herald
(TNS)

The Biden Administration has ordered a second carrier group into the Eastern Mediterranean as Israel’s war with the terrorist group Hamas moves into its second week.

According to a statement by U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower Carrier Strike Group will join the USS Gerald R. Ford Carrier Strike Group off the coast of Israel in an effort to prevent further escalation of the conflict by third parties.

“The increases to U.S. force posture signal the United States’ ironclad commitment to Israel’s security and our resolve to deter any state or non-state actor seeking to escalate this war,” the retired four-star general said.

Announcements of U.S. military movements toward the Middle East came after more than 1,000 Israeli civilians and military personnel were killed when Hamas launched a surprise attack from Gaza last Saturday. Israel’s Security Cabinet declared war with the group, which the United States, Canada, and the European Union have officially designated a terrorist organization, in the following hours.

The death toll of U.S. citizens rose to 30, Sunday, with 13 still missing.  The militants also kidnapped at least 155 people — a number that includes babies and the elderly — and are holding them hostage in Gaza. National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan, speaking with CNN on Sunday, said the U.S. is not currently in talks with Hamas to negotiate the release of the hostages.

The nuclear-powered Nimitz-class Eisenhower carrier group includes the Ticonderoga-class USS Philippine Sea, a guided-missile cruiser, the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyers USS Gravely and USS Mason, and the nine aircraft squadrons of Carrier Air Wing 3.

Along with the Ford, the U.S. Navy’s largest and newest carrier, they join the Ticonderoga-class guided missile cruiser USS Normandy and the Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyers USS Thomas Hudner, USS Ramage, USS Carney, and USS Roosevelt.

To put the level of naval power contained in the modern-day armada currently on station or steaming toward the region into perspective: there are now more nuclear-powered U.S. Navy carriers assigned to the Mediterranean than there are active among the rest of the world’s navies, combined.

The U.S. Air Force has sent F-35, F-15, F-16, and A-10 fighter aircraft squadrons in the region, according to Austin.

The deployments, according to the Secretary of Defense, are “part of our effort to deter hostile actions against Israel or any efforts toward widening this war following Hamas’s attack on Israel.”

As a show of support for the only democratic ally in the region, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer was in Tel Aviv on Sunday along with Republican Sens. Mitt Romney of Utah and Bill Cassidy of Louisiana and Democratic Sens. Jacky Rosen of Nevada and Mark Kelly of Arizona.

“They must be stopped,” Schumer said of Hamas during a press conference. “We cannot let this evil continue to prowl the earth. So, in the face of this horrific attack, we’re here to share a message of resolute solidarity. We say to Israel, America will stand with its ally Israel.”

According to the New York Democrat, the bipartisan visit was briefly interrupted by terrorist rocket fired out of Gaza.

“While in Tel Aviv today, our delegation was rushed to a shelter to wait out rockets sent by Hamas. It shows you what Israelis have to go through. We must provide Israel with the support required to defend itself,” Schumer shared via the social media platform formerly known as Twitter.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken is expected to visit Tel Aviv on Monday, his second trip to Israel during a now week-long whirlwind tour of the the region.

“Israel has the right, indeed it has the obligation, to defend itself from these attacks,” Blinken told reporters in Cairo. “The way that Israel does this matters.”

Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the wartime government he’s formed with opposition leader Benny Gantz have called up more than 360,000 Israeli Defense Force reservists in preparation for a ground, air and sea invasion of the Gaza Strip.

Residents of northern Gaza have been warned to flee to the south ahead of the impending assault, where they are finding it impossible to leave the territory at a closed Egyptian border. The U.N. has said that Israel’s demand is unworkable.

“The United Nations considers it impossible for such a movement to take place without devastating humanitarian consequences. The United Nations strongly appeals for any such order, if confirmed, to be rescinded avoiding what could transform what is already a tragedy into a calamitous situation,” Stéphane Dujarric, a spokesman for U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres said in a statement.

President Joe Biden took to social media Sunday morning to remind observers that the people of Palestine are not synonymous with the terrorists that have ruled the Gaza Strip for more than a decade.

“We must not lose sight of the fact that the overwhelming majority of Palestinians had nothing to do with Hamas’s appalling attacks, and are suffering as a result of them,” the 46th President wrote.

Herald wire services contributed.

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