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USS Ford Aircraft Carrier Returning Home After Extended Deployment Protecting Israel

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The Navy said the USS Ford’s presence will now be replaced by the Bataan amphibious ready group, which has 2,000 Marines onboard.

The USS Gerald R. Ford aircraft carrier strike group is heading home from the Mediterranean Sea, according to a Monday announcement by the US Navy.

It had patrolled there, particularly in the Eastern Mediterranean, for months of additional, extended duty in order to provide protection for Israel and be on the ready for potential escalation, given persistent exchange of fire between Israel and Lebanese Hezbollah too.

The Navy said the USS Ford’s presence will now be replaced by the Bataan amphibious ready group, which has 2,000 Marines onboard. This ready group includes the USS Bataan, and the USS Mesa Verde and the USS Carter Hall – which are currently transiting the Red Sea, making ready to enter the Mediterranean. 

A US 6th Fleet message said the Ford will sail for home “in the coming days.” The shift could be the result of Israel newly announcing it is about to enter the “next phase” of its Gaza operations

According to fresh reporting in The New York Times:

The Israeli military announced on Monday that it will begin withdrawing several thousand troops from Gaza at least temporarily, in what would be the most significant publicly announced pullback since the war began.

The military cited a growing toll on the Israeli economy following nearly three months of wartime mobilization with little end in sight to the fighting. Israel had been considering scaling back its operations, and the United States has been prodding it to do so more quickly as the death toll in Gaza continues to rise. More than 20,000 people have been killed in Gaza since the beginning of the war, according to local health authorities.

Daniel Hagari, the Israeli military spokesman, emphasized that the move to demobilize some soldiers did not indicate any compromise on Israel’s intention to continue fighting, and he did not mention the American requests to scale back. He indicated that some will be called back to service in the coming year. Still, the fighting remains intense across Gaza.

There’s been recent White House pressure on Tel Aviv to dial down the intensity of the fighting amid the soaring Palestinian civilian death toll, but also as the Netanyahu governing coalition faces growing anger domestically over how it has handled the war and hostage situation especially. 

NEW: The USS Ford Carrier Strike Group is leaving the Eastern Mediterranean where it has been since the days immediately following Hamas’s attack on Israel and returning to its homeport in Norfolk, VA pic.twitter.com/ec15rHaBF6

— Liz Friden (@Liz_Friden) January 1, 2024

The Associated Press meanwhile reviews of the US military build-up in regional waters in the wake of the Oct.7 Hamas terror attack as follows: “Since it was extended in the Eastern Mediterranean, the Ford and the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower aircraft carrier have been part of a two-carrier presence bracketing the Israel-Hamas war, underscoring U.S. concerns that the conflict will widen.” The report further notes, “The Eisenhower has recently patrolled near the Gulf of Aden, at the mouth of the Red Sea waterway, where so many commercial vessels have come under attack in recent weeks.”


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