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US to send carrier strike group to assist Israel after Hamas kills over 700 people

The United States will send cruisers and destroyers with the USS Gerald R. Ford to assist Israel against Hamas. The Israeli government formally declared war on Sunday against the Palestine-based group.

Aveek Banerjee Edited By: Aveek Banerjee @AveekABanerjee Washington Updated on: October 08, 2023 23:57 IST
USS Gerald R Ford
Image Source : AP USS Gerald R Ford

The US Department of Defense on Sunday ordered the Ford carrier strike group to sail to the Eastern Mediterranean to be ready to assist Israel against a surprise attack by the Palestine-based militant group Hamas, said two officials.

The USS Gerald R. Ford has close to 5,000 sailors and a deck of warplanes along with cruisers and destroyers that will be sent to Israel in a show of force to respond to anything, from possibly interdicting additional weapons from reaching Hamas and conducting surveillance.

The Virginia-based carrier was already positioned in the Mediterranean. It was conducting naval exercises with Italy in the Ionian Sea last week. It is arguably the most advanced US aircraft carrier.

The US is also making efforts to increase the presence of fighter jets in the region, including F-35, F-15, F-16 and A-10 squadrons, CNN reported. It sent several of these aircraft to the Middle East in recent months in response to aggression from Iranian forces across the region, including in Syria and in the Gulf of Oman.

The Israel-Hamas conflict

Militants from the Hamas group that rules the Gaza Strip, fired over 3,000 rockets toward Israel on Saturday daybreak, killing more than 700 people and injuring over 2,200 others. Several fighters of the group breached the heavily fortified border using paragliders and kidnapped 100 Israelis, including civilians and soldiers, and took them to Gaza, according to the Times of Israel.

Hamas gunmen rolled into as many as 22 locations in southern Israel on Saturday and gunned down civilians and soldiers, the Times of Israel reported. 

In retaliation, Israel carried out airstrikes on the Gaza Strip as part of its operation 'Iron Swords' that claimed the lives of 370 Palestinians. Heavy gunfighting continued will after midnight, with the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) claiming to have killed around 400 Hamas militants.

The high death toll, multiple captives and a slow response to the onslaught pointed to a major intelligence failure on the Israeli side, who are considered to have knowledge about all movements in the occupied regions in Palestine. Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu vowed that Hamas “will pay an unprecedented price.” But, he warned, “This war will take time. It will be difficult.”

"Hamas wants to murder us all. It is an enemy who murders children and mothers in their homes, in their beds. An enemy who kidnaps the elderly, children, and girls. Murderers who slap and slaughter our citizens, our children, who all in all went out to spend the holiday," Netanyahu said in a post on X.

The leader of Hamas' military wing Mohammed Deif earlier said that the armed group has launched a new military operation titled 'Operation Al-Aqsa Storm' against Israel. "We've decided to say enough is enough," he said in a rare statement. He claimed that around 5,000 rockets were launched by the group toward Israel. Soon after, Israel launched operation 'Iron Swords' to retaliate against the group.

Videos of Hamas fighters parading what appeared to be stolen Israeli military vehicles through the streets and at least one dead Israeli soldier within Gaza being dragged and trampled by an angry crowd of Palestinians shouting “God is Great" surfaced on social media.

What is Israel doing now?

The Israeli government formally declared war on Sunday and gave the green light for “significant military steps” to retaliate against Hamas. 

The declaration of war portended greater fighting ahead, and a major question was whether Israel would launch a ground assault into Gaza, a move that in the past has brought intensified casualties.

Israel hit more than 800 targets in Gaza so far, its military said, including airstrikes that leveled much of the town of Beit Hanoun in the enclave’s northeast corner. The number of casualties is yet to be confirmed.

(with AP inputs)

ALSO READ | Why did Israel's Iron Dome fail? Concerns rise over intelligence failure after Hamas surprise attack

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