Growing US military presence in Middle East significant show of force as Hamas-Israel war rages on

ByChuck Goudie WLS logo
Tuesday, October 17, 2023
Growing US military presence in Middle East significant show of force
Conflicting accusations about a deadly Gaza hospital explosion are complicating the Hamas-Israel war as President Joe Biden heads to the Middle East.

There is one Navy aircraft carrier battle group in the Mediterranean, and one on the way.

That will put more than a dozen American ships, at least 125 U.S. warplanes, dozens of helicopters and about 10,000 sailors and Marines in place offshore Israel and Lebanon.

There are no orders to deploy those U.S. assets into the Israel-Hamas war, even as Tuesday saw one of the worst incidents of the conflict.

The U.S. will be available on short notice, if necessary, to aid Israel, one of its closest allies.

Once the two carrier groups, including accompanying battleships, are in place, another 2,000 American troops in the U.S. and overseas are on standby for Middle East deployment if needed. This group includes intelligence officers, support staff and medical units.

Former senior U.S. counter-terrorism official and University of Michigan professor, Javed Ali, says it is a significant show of force.

"The firepower alone on the aircraft carrier is significant... and then around them there are destroyers, there are cruisers. Each of those has an ability to launch cruise missiles or other large munitions at targets, but I don't think that's going to be the role of the U.S. here. Those ships are more to protect the carrier than launch offensive operations against Hezbollah, or add to the Israeli ground campaign in Gaza Strip if that indeed occurs," Ali told the ABC7 Chicago I-Team.

Complicating the conflict is this: a Gaza hospital explosion Tuesday, leaving hundreds dead and both Israel and Hamas pointing at each other as responsible. The latest carnage and conflicting accusations coming as President Joe Biden is headed to Israel.

"Already, Palestinian civilians have been caught in the crossfire. That infrastructure in Gaza, we've all seen the pictures, has really been hit hard and damaged. And, if the ground campaign starts, that is only going to get worse, unfortunately. And, that is why I think buying some time to get more people out of direct harm's way is a good thing. But, tragically, there will probably be more events like what happened today, whether it was from an Israeli strike, there's conflicting reports of Hamas control ordinance going off as well. It's so difficult to know what reality is," said Ali.

Israelis are strongly blaming "Islamic jihadists" for the hospital blast, citing an out-of-control rocket. Israel Defense Forces released audio and video recordings that they say supports it was a botched Hamas attack.

In the meantime, following the hospital explosion, Middle Eastern leaders have canceled their meetings with Biden. The president is still scheduled to meet with Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.