US sends military support to Israel amid Hamas attacks

The US has announced that it is sending warships, warplanes and munitions to the Middle East to support Israel after a series of attacks by the Palestinian militant group Hamas. The move is intended to reassure Israel and deter Iran from exploiting the conflict, according to US officials.

Israel amid Hamas attacks

US aircraft carrier group deployed to eastern Mediterranean

US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said on Sunday that he had ordered the USS Gerald R. Ford Carrier Strike Group, the Navy’s newest and largest warship, and its accompanying vessels to move closer to the eastern Mediterranean in response to Hamas’ unprecedented, multi-front attack on Israel. The Ford was in the western Mediterranean when it received the order and could have to travel over a thousand miles.

The carrier strike group includes the Ticonderoga-class guided missile cruiser USS Normandy and four Arleigh-Burke-class guided missile destroyers — USS Thomas Hudner, USS Ramage, USS Carney and USS Roosevelt. The group carries about 6,000 sailors and a variety of aircraft, including F-35 stealth fighters, F-18 Super Hornets, E-2 Hawkeyes and MH-60 helicopters.

Austin also announced steps to augment US Air Force fighter aircraft squadrons in the region, including F-15, F-16 and A-10 warplanes. The Pentagon will also begin airlifting equipment and ammunition to the Israeli Defense Forces starting Sunday.

US expresses support for Israel and diplomatic efforts

Austin spoke with Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant on Sunday “to express support for the people of Israel and to receive updates on Israel’s operation to restore security and safety from Hamas’ terrorist attack,” Pentagon press secretary Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder said in a statement. Gallant and Austin will “remain in close contact in the days and weeks ahead,” Ryder added.

The announcement came shortly after the White House confirmed that President Joe Biden and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke again on Sunday morning. The two leaders discussed Hamas’ taking of Israeli hostages, with Biden assuring Netanyahu that US assistance for the Israel Defense Forces was on its way 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 said. “President Biden updated the Prime Minister on the intensive diplomatic engagement undertaken by the United States over the last 24 hours in support of Israel,” the readout added.

Hamas attacks Israel with rockets and drones

The US military support comes after Hamas launched a coordinated attack on Israel on Friday, firing hundreds of rockets from Gaza and sending armed drones from Lebanon. The attack targeted several Israeli cities, including Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, Haifa and Beersheba, killing at least 12 people and injuring hundreds more. Several US citizens were among those killed in the attacks, a National Security Council spokesperson confirmed Sunday.

Israel responded with airstrikes and artillery fire on Gaza, killing at least 150 people, including dozens of children, and destroying several buildings, including a tower that housed media outlets such as Al Jazeera and The Associated Press. Israel also deployed ground troops along the border with Gaza, raising fears of a possible invasion.

The conflict has been escalating since Monday, when Hamas fired rockets at Jerusalem in response to Israeli police raids on the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound, a holy site for both Muslims and Jews. The raids followed weeks of tensions over the planned evictions of Palestinian families from East Jerusalem by Jewish settlers.

The international community has called for an immediate end to the violence and a return to dialogue. The UN Security Council held an emergency meeting on Sunday, but failed to agree on a joint statement due to opposition from the US, which said it was working behind the scenes to de-escalate the situation.

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