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Israel-Hamas War: Over 2,000 US troops, warships and aircraft on high alert after Gaza hospital attack

Israel-Hamas war: Amid speculations that the ongoing conflict could escalate further following a brutal attack on a hospital in Gaza, the US said it has ordered its 2,000 forces to be prepared to deploy if needed in the coming days and weeks.

Ajeet Kumar Edited By: Ajeet Kumar @Ajeet1994 Washington Updated on: October 18, 2023 15:42 IST
US began moving its warships and aircraft towards Israel in order to support IDF against Hamas.
Image Source : AP US began moving its warships and aircraft towards Israel in order to support IDF against Hamas.

Israel-Hamas war: Amid the brutal war between Israel and Hamas, the United States geared up its warships and lethal aircraft to provide Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) with whatever it needed to respond to the attacks by the militant group which Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu dubbed as a replica of "ISIS". According to the US officials, more ships and forces were heading toward Israel, and other troops in the US were preparing to deploy if called on. The latest development came as US President Joe Biden is scheduled to land in Tel Aviv shortly wherein he would ask "tough questions" from Israel for allegedly attacking the civilian hospital in Gaza that killed over 500 people including children.

One US aircraft carrier and its strike group are already in the eastern Mediterranean and a second one has left America and is heading that way. In addition, three Marine warships are moving into the region. Scores of aircraft were dispatched to US military bases around the Middle East, and American special operations forces are working with Israel’s military in planning and intelligence.

As of Tuesday, five shipments of US weapons and equipment had arrived in Israel.

The buildup reflects growing US concern that the deadly fighting between Hamas and Israel will escalate into wider regional conflict. So the key mission for American ships and warplanes is to establish a large and visible presence that will deter Hezbollah, Iran or others from taking advantage of the situation.

A look at what weapons and assistance the U.S. military is providing:

NAVY SHIPS AND PLANES

One of the most visible examples of the U.S. response is in the waters surrounding Israel — an array of massive warships are in or moving toward the eastern Mediterranean and the Red Sea.

The USS Gerald R. Ford carrier strike group was ordered to go to the Eastern Mediterranean within hours after the attack, and on Tuesday the Pentagon said the ship’s six-month deployment in the region has been extended and gave no end date. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin in recent days ordered the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower carrier strike group to join the Ford in the Eastern Mediterranean, and those ships are now heading across the Atlantic Ocean.

On Tuesday, the Pentagon said it was sending the USS Bataan amphibious ready group, which consists of three ships carrying thousands of Marines from the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit, into the region. A US official said the USS Mesa Verde, an amphibious transport dock, is in the Mediterranean Sea, and the Bataan, an amphibious assault ship, and the USS Carter Hall, a dock landing ship, were in the Gulf region and are now heading toward the Red Sea. The official spoke on condition of anonymity to provide details on ship locations.

The ships carry helicopters and assault craft that can insert Marines into hostile territory or provide medical care or other assistance.

The warships, particularly the aircraft carriers with their fighter jets and surveillance aircraft, have historically proven to be an effective deterrent against Iranian and other militant activity in the Middle East. The carriers serve as command-and-control centres and can conduct information warfare. They carry F-18 fighter jets that can fly deterrence missions or strike targets. They also have E-2 Hawkeye surveillance planes that can provide early warning on missile launches and detect enemy movements.

WEAPONS AND SPECIAL OPERATIONS FORCES

Aircraft loaded with US weapons have already begun arriving in Israel. Austin watched as the crew were unloading one C-17 transport plane on Friday at Nevatim air base east of Gaza. On Tuesday, the Pentagon said five such deliveries have already been made and more are expected.

US defence officials say the administration has already given Israel small-diameter bombs, other munition and interceptor missiles for its Iron Dome air defence system, and more will come. The U.S. is also getting defence companies to expedite weapons orders by Israel that were already on the books, including munitions for the Iron Dome.

The Iron Dome munitions the U.S. provides to Israel will likely be in addition to ones Israel had already ordered and will be part of ongoing military assistance packages. The packages will also include JDAM kits — essentially a tail fin and navigation kit that turns a “dumb” bomb into a “smart” bomb that can be guided to a target.

In addition, the U.S. has set up a small cell of special operations forces that have been working with Israel, providing intelligence and planning, as well as advice to the Israeli Defense Forces on hostage recovery efforts. The Pentagon has said those troops are not participating in any hostage rescues and there are no other U.S. military forces on the ground in Israel.

AIR FORCE WARPLANES

The Pentagon has also ordered additional warplanes to bolster A-10, F-15 and F-16 squadrons at bases throughout the Middle East. More will be added if needed.

Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall said last week at an Atlantic Council event that the service was ordering units that were about to come home to remain in place along with their replacements.

The U.S. Air Force already has significant airpower in the region to conduct manned and unmanned operations, most notably in Syria, where an Air Force F-16 last week was ordered to shoot down a Turkish drone that was posing a threat to U.S. ground forces.

MORE TROOPS ARE GETTING READY

Austin ordered about 2,000 US forces to be prepared to deploy if needed in the coming days and weeks. Pentagon spokeswoman Sabrina Singh told reporters Tuesday that the units have not yet been identified. She said the troops would be able to respond quickly, particularly to provide intelligence and surveillance, transportation and medical assistance.

The 2,000 troops are likely to include additional Air Force and Army personnel.

(AP)

Also Read: Joe Biden's Israel visit: 'I'm outraged, deeply saddened by explosion at hospital in Gaza', says US President

 

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