U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin announced on Sunday the movement of American military ships, including an aircraft carrier and additional aircraft, towards the eastern Mediterranean following Hamas’ unprecedented, multi-front attack on Israel.
“Today, in response to this Hamas attack on Israel, and following detailed discussions with President Biden, I have directed several steps to strengthen Department of Defense posture in the region to bolster regional deterrence efforts,” Austin stated in a news release.
The USS Gerald R. Ford Carrier Strike Group encompasses the USS Gerald R. Ford aircraft carrier, the largest warship in the world, along with the Ticonderoga-class guided missile cruiser USS Normandy and four Arleigh-Burke-class guided missile destroyers.
The USS Gerald R. Ford was in the western Mediterranean when it received orders to deploy. Depending on its precise location, it could have to travel over a thousand miles.
U.S. Naval Force Deployment to Mediterranean
Austin also unveiled steps to augment U.S. Air Force fighter aircraft squadrons in the region. USAF aircraft are heading to bases in the Middle East, where they will be available for operations against Iran.
The munitions the U.S. will be sending over are being airlifted.
This announcement came shortly after the White House confirmed that President Biden and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had another discussion on Sunday morning.
The two leaders talked about Hamas’ taking of Israeli hostages, with Mr. Biden assuring Netanyahu that U.S. assistance for the Israel Defense Forces was en route to Israel, with more to follow over the coming days.
“The President emphasized that there is no justification whatsoever for terrorism, and all countries must stand united in the face of such brutal atrocities,” the White House readout of the call mentioned.
Austin confirmed that the first movement of U.S. security aid to the IDF will commence on Sunday and arrive in the upcoming days.
“My team and I will continue to be in close contact with our Israeli counterparts to ensure they have what they need to protect their citizens and defend themselves against these heinous terrorist attacks,” Austin remarked.
Israeli officials confirmed to on Sunday that at least 600 Israeli civilians and military members had died since Hamas launched an unprecedented attack on Israel from Gaza early Saturday morning. Another 1,800 were wounded.
Many Israelis, both civilians and security forces, have been taken hostage. Israeli ambassador Michael Herzog mentioned on “Face the Nation” on Sunday that he’s under the impression that Americans were taken hostage, though he didn’t have details.
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on “Face the Nation” that the U.S. is investigating reports that Americans were among those taken hostage.
There isn’t any serious planning yet for the evacuation of American citizens, U.S. officials noted.
The Gaza Ministry of Health reported on Sunday that 370 Palestinians have died and 2,200 were wounded.
With information from CBS News