The United States has stationed its USS Gerald R. Ford aircraft carrier as well as a strike group just off the coast of Israel following Hamas’ brutal and surprising attack on the nation last weekend.
This week, John F. Kirby, a spokesman for the National Security Council, said that move was done as a “deterrence.”
While appearing on “The Record with Greta Van Susteren” program on Tuesday, Kirby commented that Lloyd Austin, the country’s defense secretary, decided to do this “to make it clear we have vital security interests in the region.”
The strike group that is stationed near Israel’s cost also includes the USS Roosevelt, USS Carney, USS Ramage and USS Thomas Hudner – all of which are Arleigh-Burke-class destroyers – and the USS Normandy, which is a Ticonderoga-class cruiser.
Commenting on the Ford strike group, Kirby said:
“Anybody – any other nation, any other terrorist group, any other entity – that wants to try to take advantage of this situation in Israel and escalate or expand the conflict, this is a message to them not to do it.”
Reports surfaced this week that America was considering removing the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower aircraft carrier as well as its strike group to Israel’s coast, but Kirby denied those reports.
Officials with the Department of Defense also commented to The Wall Street Journal this week that the aircraft carrier and the strike group were en route to the Middle East, with an expected arrival of about two weeks.
Kirby further commented:
“There are no plans right now for the Eisenhower to become the second carrier off the coast of – operating in the Eastern Mediterranean. I think that’s been a little bit of a garble in some of the press reporting.
“Obviously, if things change, we’ll certainly talk about that. But, right now, it’s really just the USS Gerald R. Ford and her strike group off the coast of Israel right now in the Eastern Mediterranean.”
Switching gears a bit during the appearance, Kirby said that the White House still wasn’t exactly sure how many United States citizens have been taken hostage as a result of Hamas’ attack. He also said that rescue missions would be very risky, although none have been initiated just yet.
“The possibility that there are additional Americans being held hostage is very real. So, right now, we know of a very small number – a handful – but that number could rise.”
It’s very likely that the U.S. will be providing additional aid to Israel in the coming days and weeks in response to Hamas’ attack, which has so far left more than 1,200 people dead – including many innocent civilians. The brutal attack by the terrorist group resulted in some atrocities being committed by the perpetrators.
Initial concerns were that Iran had supported Hamas either financially and/or with planning, but U.S. intelligence officials have thus far said they haven’t uncovered any evidence that proves a direct link.