US to deploy additional air defense systems near Israel
The US has significantly ramped up its military footprint in the Middle East amid the Israel-Hamas conflict, sending additional air defense systems to the region, the Pentagon has announced.
In a statement on Saturday, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said he had “activated the deployment of a Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) battery as well as additional Patriot battalions” in several undisclosed locations in the Middle East to increase the protection of US forces.
THAAD systems have an operational range of about 200km and are designed to intercept various types of missiles. Patriots, which have recently seen action in Ukraine, have a range of up to 160km and can shoot down missiles, drones, and warplanes.
According to Austin, the decision was made after “detailed discussions” with US President Joe Biden “on recent escalations by Iran and its proxy forces across the Middle East,” with the overall effort meant to support Israel. The minister added that he had also ordered an unspecified amount of US forces to be ready to deploy “as part of prudent contingency planning.”
After the Palestinian military group Hamas launched a surprise attack on Israel earlier this month, the US deployed two aircraft carriers – the USS Gerald R. Ford and USS Dwight D. Eisenhower – as well as support ships to the region.
On Tuesday, CNN reported that the Pentagon had sent 2,000 Marines and sailors to the waters off Israel’s coast to “send a message of deterrence to Iran and the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah.”
On Thursday, the Pentagon said its destroyer deployed in the Red Sea had shot down three missiles and several drones launched by Houthi rebels from Yemen. It noted at the time that it could not say what their intended target was, but did not rule out that the attack was meant to hit Israeli facilities.
While Biden has expressed support for Israel in the conflict with Hamas, he said he does not believe it is necessary to send American troops to fight in the region. Amid the violence in the Middle East, he also cautioned Iran “to be careful.”
Tehran has said it will not engage in hostilities “provided that the Israeli apartheid does not dare to attack Iran, its interests, and nationals.”