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US to send second carrier strike group to assist Israel as ground offensive in Gaza approaches

The US had earlier deployed USS Gerald R Ford to the Eastern Mediterranean to assist Israel in its offensive against Hamas in Gaza. Israeli troops are already stationed at the Gaza border amid preparations for a coordinated assault through land, sea and air.

Aveek Banerjee Edited By: Aveek Banerjee @AveekABanerjee Washington Published on: October 15, 2023 15:48 IST
USS Dwight D Eisenhower in Norfolk, Virginia.
Image Source : AP USS Dwight D Eisenhower in Norfolk, Virginia.

The United States will send another carrier strike group in its efforts to assist Israel amid the escalating war with Hamas militants in Gaza, according to two defence officials. This comes as Israel is preparing for a 'coordinated' offensive through air, land and sea in Gaza.

The Biden administration will send the USS Dwight D Eisenhower carrier strike group to the Eastern Mediterranean, which will join the USS Gerald R Ford already deployed near Israel, to bolster the US presence there with a host of destroyers, fighter aircraft and cruisers.

Having two carriers in the region will give the US the capability to serve as primary command and control operations centres over a wide area. They can conduct information warfare and launch and recover E2-Hawkeye surveillance planes that provide early warnings on missile launches, conduct surveillance and manage the airspace.

Additionally, both ships carry F-18 fighter jets that could fly intercepts or strike targets. They also have significant capabilities for humanitarian work, including an onboard hospital with medics, surgeons and doctors, and they sail with helicopters that can be used to airlift critical supplies in or victims out.

Meanwhile, US President Joe Biden held separate phone calls with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on Saturday where he reiterated America's support for the Jewish country while also emphasising the importance of humanitarian aid for Gazans.

In both calls, Biden reiterated firm US support for Israel and emphasised the need to provide humanitarian assistance to the conflict-torn Gaza. He also discussed his administration's efforts to prevent the ongoing war from spreading to other countries in the Middle East.

The US has already announced the deployment of fighter jets in the region, including F-35, F-15, F-16 and A-10 squadrons. "The increases to US 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," said Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin.

Israeli offensive in Gaza

As the war enters its eighth day, the Israel Defence Forces (IDF) said that it is completing preparations for a “significant ground operation” in the Gaza Strip, which will include a "joint and coordinated" offensive from air, land and sea, reported The Times of Israel.

"Hamas has shown the world time and time again what they are capable of. Now the IDF is prepared to counter with an even greater force. There is no place in the world for terrorism," the IDF said on X.

The week-long war has already claimed over 3,600 lives on both sides and sent tensions soaring across the region. The death toll from Israeli strikes on Gaza rose to 2,329 people have been killed in the territory, including 724 children and 458 women, the Palestinian health ministry said. On the other hand, over 1,300 people have died in Israel from the Hamas attack since last week.

Israel also gave an ultimatum for the 1.1 million people in northern Gaza to evacuate within 24 hours, which has sparked a divisive response by some including the European Union (EU), the United Nations (UN) and the World Health Organisation (WHO) owing to the dire health situation in Gaza. 

"The IDF is operating to eliminate Hamas in Gaza. Our war is not with the people of Gaza... We are calling on the residents of Gaza to evacuate southwards for their own safety. Not just because it's international law, because it's our values, our morals, and we demand no less," said Israel Defence Forces (IDF) spokesperson Lt Col Richard Hecht.

(with AP inputs)

ALSO READ | Israel kills another Hamas commander, Billal al-Qedra, ahead of possible 'coordinated' assault

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