(NEW YORK) — The Pentagon has ordered a second aircraft carrier strike group to the eastern Mediterranean near Israel to deter Iran or Hezbollah from joining the Israel-Hamas conflict, according to U.S. officials.
A senior US official and a US official told ABC News that the USS Eisenhower carrier strike group will be ordered to the eastern Mediterranean to join the USS Gerald R Ford carrier strike group that arrived there earlier this week and is in international waters off of Israel.
A Pentagon spokesperson did not immediately have a comment on the development.
Senior U.S. officials have said publicly this week that the presence of the USS Ford carrier strike group in the eastern Mediterranean and the addition of more U.S. Air Force fighter jets to the region was intended to show the U.S. commitment to Israel and to serve as a deterrent to Iran and Hezbollah not to get involved in the Israel-Hamas conflict.
“These posture increases were intended to serve as an unequivocal demonstration in deed and not only in words of U.S. support for Israel’s defense and serve as a deterrent signal to Iran, Lebanese Hezbollah, and any other proxy across the region who might be considering exploiting the current situation to escalate conflict,” a senior U.S. defense official said Monday. “Those adversaries should think twice.”
Having the Eisenhower joining the Ford will increase the show of force enhancing that message of deterrence.
A third U.S. official told ABC News that the Pentagon is also considering the deployment of the USS Bataan amphibious assault ship closer to Israel to provide additional support if needed. The consideration of the ship and the rotary aircraft it carries while on deployment to the Middle East was first reported by CNN.
The Eisenhower strike group left Norfolk, Virginia, earlier on Saturday bound for a previously scheduled deployment that would take it to the Middle East via the Mediterranean Sea where it was to participate in previously-scheduled exercises in the U.S. European Command area of responsibility.
Its pending deployment led to speculation that it might be deployed to the eastern Mediterranean to join the USS Ford, but a Pentagon statement would only say that Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin would “continue to review both the Eisenhower and Ford’s deployment plans as he considers the appropriate balance of maritime capability across theaters in support of national security priorities.”
The Eisenhower strike group includes the aircraft carrier USS Eisenhower and the guided missile cruiser USS Philippine Sea (CG-58), and the guided missile destroyers USS Laboon (DDG-58), USS Mason (DDG-87) and USS Gravely (DDG-107).
The USS Ford strike group arrived in the waters of the eastern Mediterranean on Tuesday and in addition to the carrier includes the cruiser USS Normandy (CG 60), as well as destroyers USS Thomas Hudner (DDG 116), USS Ramage (DDG 61), USS Carney (DDG 64), and USS Roosevelt (DDG 80).
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