The US put 2,000 troops on heightened alert and extended the deployment of an aircraft carrier in the Middle East as the Biden administration makes a show of deterrence ahead of Israel’s expected ground assault on Hamas.
(Bloomberg) — The US put 2,000 troops on heightened alert and extended the deployment of an aircraft carrier in the Middle East as the Biden administration makes a show of deterrence ahead of Israel’s expected ground assault on Hamas.
Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin put the troops and several units on “a heightened state of readiness through a prepare to deploy order, which increases DoD’s ability to respond quickly to the evolving security environment in the Middle East,” Pentagon Deputy Spokeswoman Sabrina Singh said. “No decisions have been made to deploy any forces at this time.”
Austin also ordered the Gerald R. Ford aircraft carrier strike group to stay in the region for now. It had been nearing the end of a six-month deployment. That decision means the US will have two carrier strike groups in the region, after Austin ordered the USS Eisenhower carrier strike group to the Eastern Mediterranean as part of its deterrence effort.
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The US is carrying out the move ahead of a flareup in regional tension that’s expected once Israel launches a ground assault in the Gaza Strip to root out Hamas, which launched an attack into Israel more than a week ago and killed some 1,200 Israelis. Hamas, which is designated a terrorist group by the US and the EU, has told people to stay in northern Gaza even as hundreds of thousands have fled south in anticipation of Israel’s response.
So far US officials have said they have no intention of putting US boots on the ground in the conflict and say the military buildup is aimed at deterring other countries such as Iran from entering the conflict. But the moves have also prompted fears that the US risks being drawn into the conflict.
President Joe Biden is set to visit Israel on Wednesday to show US support for Israel and try to keep the war from spreading.
“President Biden will underscore our crystal-clear message to any actor, state or non-state, trying to take advantage of this crisis to attack Israel — don’t,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken told reporters in Tel Aviv early Tuesday.
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