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The United States Deploys a Second Carrier Strike Group and Fighter Jets to the Region Amid Israel’s Plans to Extend Operations in Gaza

The US Department of Defense has issued an order for the deployment of a second carrier strike group to the eastern Mediterranean Sea. Concurrently, Air Force fighter jets are being dispatched to the region, all while Israel readies itself to expand its operations in Gaza, according to a statement from US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin released on a Saturday.

It is important to note that these US warships are not slated to be directly involved in the ongoing conflict in Gaza or take part in Israeli military operations. Instead, their presence, consisting of two of the Navy’s most formidable vessels, serves as a clear message of deterrence directed towards Iran and Iranian proxies in the region, such as Hezbollah in Lebanon.

Lloyd Austin’s statement clarifies that these strategic movements are “part of our effort to deter hostile actions against Israel or any attempts to escalate this conflict in the wake of Hamas’s attack on Israel.”

The first carrier strike group, under the command of the USS Gerald R. Ford, had arrived off the coast of Israel just the previous week. The USS Dwight D. Eisenhower strike group, which set sail from Norfolk, Virginia on Friday, is now en route to the eastern Mediterranean. It is worth noting that the initial plan for the aircraft carrier was to patrol the waters designated by US European Command.

At this juncture, the duration of the USS Gerald R. Ford’s presence in the region upon the arrival of the Eisenhower carrier strike group remains uncertain, as per information provided by a US defense official to CNN.

The Eisenhower, serving as the flagship of the carrier strike group, will be accompanied by a guided-missile cruiser and two guided-missile destroyers, as outlined in Secretary Austin’s statement. Notably, the USS Eisenhower has the capacity to transport more than 60 aircraft, including F/A-18 fighter jets, while the USS Ford can deploy more than 75 aircraft. ABC News was the first to report on the orders for the carrier strike group’s deployment.

US forces in the region are not there to provide direct assistance to Israel in combat, as clarified by the Biden administration. According to John Kirby, the strategic communications coordinator for the National Security Council, there are no plans to deploy American troops within Israel. Their primary purpose in increasing their military presence in the area is to serve as a deterrent against potential intervention by other parties in the conflict, should they perceive a vulnerability on Israel’s part.

Kirby emphasized that the United States takes its national security interests in the region seriously. The bolstered military presence is intended to discourage any actors, including Hezbollah, from considering the expansion of the conflict as a viable option.

Furthermore, the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit, a rapidly deployable force with special operations capabilities, is making preparations in case they are instructed to move closer to Israel to strengthen the US military presence there. This unit, stationed aboard the amphibious assault ship USS Bataan, consists of over 2,000 Marines and sailors and is capable of supporting large-scale evacuation efforts. Their mission would include tasks like evacuation operations and humanitarian assistance, though no such orders have been issued to the unit as of now.

Additional US Fighter Jets Deployed to the Middle East

In a recent development, the US Air Forces Central announced the deployment of F-15E fighter jets and A-10 ground-attack jets to the Middle East. The aircraft, hailing from the 494th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron and the 354th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron, respectively, are intended to strengthen the US military’s presence in the region and enhance air operations. Specific details about the number of aircraft involved were not disclosed.

Furthermore, according to a US Central Command social media post, the A-10s will join an existing squadron of these aircraft already stationed in the region. US Defense Secretary Austin has also confirmed the deployment of F-16 fighters to the area.

Lt. Gen. Alexus Grynkewich, 9th Air Force commander, stated that by positioning advanced fighters and collaborating with joint and coalition forces, the US aims to fortify its partnerships and bolster security in the Middle East.

US defense officials have reiterated their commitment to swiftly provide additional forces and assets to the region as needed, especially in light of ongoing hostilities between Israel and the terrorist group Hamas.

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