JERUSALEM, Oct 13 (Reuters) – U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said on Friday the Pentagon was ready to deploy more military aid to Israel as Israeli forces prepare for a likely invasion of Gaza in response to a devastating attack by the militant group Hamas.
Austin said munitions, air defense capabilities and other equipment and resources were “flowing rapidly” to Washington’s closest ally in the Middle East. Israel has vowed to crush Hamas, the Palestinian Islamist movement that rules Gaza.
Israel launched its heaviest bombardment of the Gaza Strip after Hamas carried out an unprecedented and shocking cross-border attack in southern Israel on October 7.
Israel’s response, which has already involved dropping thousands of bombs on Gaza, is expected to intensify as it prepares a possible ground assault on the narrow and densely populated coastal strip.
The United States and other Western allies have said they will support Israel as it prosecutes what Israeli leaders say will be a protracted war.
“The USS Gerald R. Ford Strike Group is now in the region led by the world’s largest aircraft carrier. We have increased US fighter jet squadrons in the Middle East and … we are fully ready to deploy additional assets if necessary,” Austin told reporters in Tel Aviv.
Austin, who spoke alongside his Israeli counterpart, Yoav Gallant, warned that it was a time for “resolution” and not “revenge”.
SUPPORT TO ISRAEL AND UKRAINE
He compared Hamas to Islamic State, the bloodthirsty Islamist group that emerged in Iraq and Syria a decade ago, repeating a line used by Israeli leaders as they rally support for their upcoming assault on Gaza.
Hamas militants killed women, children and the elderly in their brutal attacks on towns in southern Israel.
Austin also sought to reassure Ukraine, adding that Washington would support Israel in its war against Hamas while continuing to support Ukraine in its fight against the Russian invasion.
Ukrainian officials are concerned that US military aid to Israel is affecting hardware deliveries to Kiev and its arms and ammunition stockpiles.
“The United States remains the most powerful country in the world, and we remain fully capable of projecting power and maintaining our commitments and resources across multiple theaters,” Austin said. “Therefore, we will stand with Israel just as we stand with Ukraine.”
Reporting by Ari Rabinovitch, Dan Williams, Henriette Chacar, John Davison; edited by Mark Heinrich and Nick Macfie
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