The U.S. Navy’s fleet commander based in Europe and the command-and-control vessel Mount Whitney are deploying to the Eastern Mediterranean Sea during a U.S. military buildup in the area to support Israel as it reportedly wages a bloody war against Hamas, the service declared on Wednesday.
In a statement, the Navy mentioned that Mount Whitney — the flagship of the 6th Fleet — departed port at Gaeta in Italy to support U.S. operations. A Navy spokesperson confirmed that the 6th fleet commander is Vice Admiral Thomas Ishee, and his staff were also aboard.
The sailing of Mount Whitney and Ishee’s deployment to sea came through a few days after defence officials reportedly confirmed that the Navy would send a second aircraft carrier strike group into the area and move a pair of vessels carrying a Marine Corps expeditionary unit.
Currently, the Navy has the Gerald R. Ford strike group in the area off the coast of Israel. A one-star admiral, Rear Admiral Gregory Huffman, commands the six vessels. Dwight D. Eisenhower’s strike group that’s set to reach the region soon is commanded by a one-star, per Rear Admiral Marc Miguez.
The Mount Whitney has a crew comprising just a little more than 300, with nearly 150 civilian mariners from the Military Sealift Command.
The Navy’s official website on the vessel suggests it can process, receive, and transmit vast chunks of secure data from anywhere on Earth.
Besides deployed assets, the Defense Department further declared on Tuesday that it had placed about 2,000 troops on a heightened alert for deployment.
At the time of the declaration, the defence officials mentioned that they didn’t know the specific units receiving the order.
Defense and White House officials have been clear that the U.S. military assets off Israel’s coast or nearby are not carrying out offensive operations against Hamas or the Gaza Strip.
Israel declared war and has waged terrible counterstrikes against Hamas, which rules the Gaza Strip after the group launched an unforeseen terror attack into the Israeli territory earlier in the month with its rockets and gunmen wanting to slaughter as many civilians as possible. The coordinated attack on a music festival and Israeli communities had left over a thousand dead.
Relevant officials, including U.S. President Joe Biden and Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin, travelled to Israel and pledged support as a large deployment of U.S. military assets reached the region.
In the meantime, the scenario north of Israel, in Lebanon, has deteriorated over several days in the recent past, and the State Department started permitting some employee family departures and issuing a “Do Not Travel” order on Tuesday.
The State Department reported that U.S. citizens shouldn’t visit Lebanon owing to the unpredictable security scenario related to missile, rocket, and artillery exchanges between Hezbollah and Israel or the other armed militant factions and owing to the embassy’s limited capacity for providing support.
The Associated Press has reported that the most recent bombing of a Gaza hospital that has further inflamed tensions in the zone has led to more clashes and protests with security forces close to the U.S. Embassy based in Lebanon.
References: Navy Times, Military.com
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