A handout file photo made available by the US Navy shows the aircraft carrier USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78) in the Ionian Sea, part of the Mediterranean Sea, 04 October 2023 (issued 09 October 2023). EFE-EPA FILE/US NAVY/MC2 JACOB MATTINGLY HANDOUT HANDOUT EDITORIAL USE ONLY/NO SALES

US to send second aircraft carrier to Mediterranean amid Gaza escalation

Washington DC, Oct 14 (EFE).- The United States’ secretary of defense Lloyd Austin on Saturday announced the deployment of a second aircraft carrier and its associated warships in the Mediterranean amid the ongoing conflict in the Gaza strip and indications that the Israel Defense Forces were preparing for a ground invasion of the Palestinian enclave.

An E-2D early warning aircraft (L) and MH-60 Seahawk helicopters (R) are seen on the deck of the U.S. Navy’s nuclear-powered Nimitz-class ‘USS Ronald Reagan’ (CVN-76) aircraft carrier at a naval base in the southeastern port city of Busan, South Korea, 13 October 2023. EFE-EPA FILE/YONHAP SOUTH KOREA OUT

The US fleet does not intend to participate in Israel’s military operations, but its presence seeks to dissuade Iran and militant groups such as Lebanon’s Hezbollah from taking advantage of the conflict to attack Israel.

In a statement, Austin said the move was part of the US strategy to “deter hostile actions against Israel or any efforts toward widening this war following Hamas’s attack on Israel.”

The fleet is led by the USS Dwight D Eisenhower, a sophisticated nuclear-powered vessel that has taken part in US operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The US had already deployed a first aircraft carrier USS Gerald R Ford, along with its accompanying warships, to the region earlier and the fleet reached waters close to Israel earlier this week.

Moreover, the North American nation has bolstered its military presence in the region by deploying several warplanes, including the sophisticated F-35 and F-15 fighter jets.

On Oct. 7, Hamas attacked several Israeli cities and military facilities, resulting in Israel declaring a state of war and carrying out relentless airstrikes and bombings against the Gaza strip, marking the worst military escalation in decades of conflict with Palestine.

As per the latest data provided by the US state department on Saturday, at least 29 US citizens have been killed in the conflict so far.

It was not clarified whether these victims had died as a result of Hamas attacks or Israel’s offensive campaign.

Meanwhile, at least 15 American citizens and a permanent resident remain missing, with some of them believed to be among the hostages being held by Hamas in Gaza. EFE