US sends Air Force ‘Warthogs’ to Middle East as conflict in Gaza intensifies
Stars and Stripes October 13, 2023
A U.S. Air Force attack jet known for close air support in wars in Iraq and Afghanistan is being deployed to the Middle East as Israel ramps up operations in Gaza in response to the invasion by Hamas.
The arrival of the A-10 Thunderbolt II “Warthog” jets will “support the U.S.’ increased posture” in the region, a statement Thursday from U.S. Central Command said.
The statement did not say where the A-10s, belonging to the 354th Fighter Squadron, will be located or how many were sent.
They join counterparts from the 75th Fighter Squadron already in the Middle East as part of a detachment sent in late March to Al Dhafra Air Base in the United Arab Emirates.
The U.S. has rushed military forces to the region after an eruption of fighting beginning Oct. 7, when Hamas agents crossed the border, massacring and kidnapping Israeli civilians.
Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin on Sunday ordered the USS Gerald R. Ford carrier strike group to the eastern Mediterranean Sea.
The U.S. could soon deploy a second aircraft carrier, the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower, defense officials said Tuesday.
The presence of an American aircraft carrier is meant to deter groups such as Hezbollah in Lebanon and other Iran-backed groups from escalating the conflict with Israel, defense officials said Tuesday.
A unit of U.S. Marines also ended a military exercise in Kuwait early in response to the conflict, a spokeswoman for Marine Corps Forces Central Command said Friday.
The Marines, part of the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit (Special Operations Capable), left the exercise “as a prudent measure,” Capt. Angelica White said.
Analysts say the U.S. and Iran have been locked in a shadow war, with Washington’s allies clashing with militant groups backed and funded by Tehran.
Iran has backed Hamas for many years, but U.S. officials say there is no “smoking gun” implicating Tehran’s involvement in funding or planning the attacks.
Israel’s military said more than 1,300 people in Israel have been killed in the attacks, according to an Associated Press report Friday. At least 27 of the dead are American citizens, National Security Council spokesman John Kirby told reporters Thursday.
The U.S. does not intend to put American boots on the ground in Israel and Gaza, Kirby said earlier this week.
But the U.S. military said it is committed to getting Israel what it needs to defend itself, with no special restrictions on how weapons being delivered can be used against Hamas, Austin said Thursday.
The statement came prior to a likely ground offensive by Israel in Gaza. The Israeli response has so far included an aerial bombardment campaign that has left 1,537 people in Gaza dead, health authorities in Gaza said Thursday.