The Gerald R. Ford Carrier Strike Group’s presence in the Eastern Mediterranean is meant to deter other groups or nations from joining the war between Hamas and Israel, the National Security Council spokesman told reporters Monday.
Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin ordered the carrier strike group, which had been operating in the Mediterranean, closer to Italy, to move to the Eastern Mediterranean as part of the U.S. response to Hamas’ attacks on Israel. Hamas is a State Department-designated terrorist group that has been the ruling government of the occupied territory Gaza.
Since the Saturday attacks in Israel, there has been a concern that Hezbollah, a militant group in Lebanon, would join Hamas in attacking Israel. John Kirby, the spokesman for the National Security Council, and a senior defense official separately told reporters on Monday that the carrier strike group’s presence near Israel is meant to deter Hezbollah and Iran.
“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 the conflict. Those adversaries should think twice,” the senior defense official told reporters.
Despite the signal behind the carrier strike group’s moving to the Eastern Mediterranean, Hezbollah and Israeli forces exchanged fire after Hezbollah said some of its members had been killed in Israeli strikes, The Wall Street Journal reported.
The carrier strike group is expected to be in the Eastern Mediterranean “very soon,” according to the senior defense official, who would not give a timeline. The strike group, which includes USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN-78), USS Thomas Hudner (DDG-116), USS Ramage (DDG-61), USS Carney (DDG-64) and USS Roosevelt (DDG-80), as well as USS Normandy (CG-60), will stay in the area while the Department of Defense continuously evaluates the situation between Israel and Hamas.