A US Navy carrier strike group is headed to the eastern Mediterranean Sea, according to Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, as Israel prepares for a large-scale campaign against Hamas in Gaza.
The USS Gerald R. Ford, a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier, was sailing with the Italian Navy earlier this week, according to the ship’s social media, putting it close to Israel.
The carrier will be accompanied by guided missile destroyers and guided missile cruisers, which are two other classes of Navy warship.
The US is also taking steps to bolster its presence of fighter jets in the region, including F-35, F-15, F-16 and A-10 squadrons. 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.
Why it matters: The strike group’s presence is intended as a deterrent to Hezbollah in Lebanon and other militant groups aligned against Israel, the officials said.
US President Joe Biden warned Saturday that “this is not a moment for any party hostile to Israel to exploit these attacks to seek advantage.”
Remember: Hamas, like Hezbollah, has been designated as a terrorist organization by the United States, European Union and Israel.
Israel accuses its archenemy Iran of backing Hamas.
An official in US President Joe Biden’s administration said Saturday that it’s not yet clear whether Iran played a direct role in this weekend’s attacks on Israel, but that there is no question Hamas is funded, equipped and armed by Iran.