DOD Notes ‘Significant Threat’ of Escalation Amid Israel-Hamas War

Department of Defense leadership repositioned a carrier strike group and bolstered forces amid what Pentagon officials maintain is a rising threat against U.S. forces in the region.

The 119th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron’s F-16 Fighting Falcon aircraft have arrived in the U.S. Central Command area of responsibility to bolster U.S. posture to deter further aggression, CENTCOM said Tuesday. [Courtesy: Department of Defense]

U.S. defense officials are repositioning a carrier strike group and readying troops for possible deployment amid what Pentagon officials maintain is a rising threat against U.S. forces in the region.

Over the weekend, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin directed a number of troops be placed on prepare-to-deploy orders, redirected the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower Carrier Strike Group, and ordered the deployment of a Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) Battery antiballistic missile defense system, as well as additional Patriot battalions.

The enhancement of the U.S. force’s posture in the Middle East comes as Israel prepares for a  ground invasion of the Gaza Strip and as American troops in Iraq and Syria have increasingly been attacked by drones and rockets.

On Monday, U.S. military officials said two one-way attack drones were destroyed near U.S. and Coalition forces in southwest Syria before they hit their targets. No injuries were reported.

Iran and its allies are responsible, seeking to escalate the Israeli-Hamas war by targeting U.S. forces based in the region, a senior military official said Monday. 

"I can tell you generally that we know there is a significant threat of escalation throughout the region and that would include toward U.S. forces," the official said.

A senior defense official, also speaking on background to reporters, agreed. "I think it's fair to say when you see this uptick in activity and attacks by many of these groups, there's Iranian fingerprints all over it," the official said.

Ramping Up Forces 

In the days following Hamas' deadly surprise October 7 attack on Israel, the U.S. has dispatched two carrier strike groups as well as Air Force F-15s, F-16s, and A-10s rapidly sent to the region to augment existing fighter squadrons

The USS Gerald R. Ford Carrier Strike Group arrived in the eastern Mediterranean on October 11. On Saturday, Austin redirected the second—the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower Carrier Strike Group—to the Central Command (CENTCOM) areas of responsibility (AOR).

"It will further increase our force posture and strengthen our capabilities and ability to respond to a range of contingencies," Austin said.

U.S. fighters are also routing throughout the region, the senior military official confirmed Monday afternoon. "There's been a relatively significant increase in the number of land-based fighter and A-10 aircraft in the CENTCOM AOR, so that has already occurred," he said.

The CENTCOM AOR spans more than 4 million square miles, stretching from Egypt to Kazakhstan.

CENTCOM AOR map. [Courtesy: CENTCOM]

"Our carrier strike groups give us the ability to launch operations independently, anywhere in the world and immediately upon arrival," the senior defense official said. "When we send them somewhere, we are deliberately sending an incredibly strong signal to our adversaries but also to our allies and partners about the depth of our support and the ability of the U.S. military to expeditiously, dynamically respond to contingencies anywhere in the world." 

Preparing for a Ground War

On Tuesday, Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told Israel Defense Forces soldiers that the country's next phase of the war, largely believed to include a ground invasion, would soon occur.

"We are facing the next stage [of the operation]; it is on its way. You know it. You are part of it. You are part of the spearhead," said Netanyahu, according to a Times of Israel report. “Yesterday [Monday], during our attacks in Gaza, we dealt the enemy the hardest blow he has suffered in a single day."

Israel's ongoing airstrike campaign in Gaza killed 704 and represented the deadliest 24-hour period yet in the conflict, the Palestinian Ministry of Health in Ramallah said Tuesday. According to the Ministry of Health in Gaza, 5,791 Palestinians have been killed in Gaza since October 7, Reuters reported.

The Israeli Air Force (IAF) recently flew ground commanders on sorties over Gaza in attack helicopters to familiarize them ahead of a ground incursion, according to reports. IDF brigade and battalion commanders made the flights to familiarize themselves with the Gaza Strip,  a region many have never been inside, the Times of Israel reported.

Kimberly is managing editor of FLYING Digital.

Subscribe to Our Newsletter

Get the latest FLYING stories delivered directly to your inbox

Subscribe to our newsletter