Fears that the Israel-Palestinian conflict might spread through the Middle East ratcheted higher on Sunday, with the U.S. sending more military assets to the region as Israel pummelled targets in Gaza and elsewhere.
More than 50 Palestinians were killed in Israeli air strikes on the narrow coastal enclave overnight, Gaza medical sources said on Sunday.
An Israeli missile attack targeted Damascus and Aleppo international airports in neighbouring Syria early on Sunday, killing a civilian worker and putting the airports out of service, Syrian state media reported.
Israel said its aircraft struck Hezbollah targets in Lebanon on Saturday and that one of its soldiers was hit by an anti-tank missile in cross-border fighting that the Iran-backed group said killed six of its fighters.
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken cautioned Lebanon’s caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati on Saturday that the Lebanese people would be affected if his country were drawn in, the State Department said.
Israel started its “total siege” of Gaza after an Oct. 7 cross-border attack on southern Israel by militants of the Islamist movement Hamas killed 1,400 people, mainly civilians, in a shock rampage that has traumatised Israel.
Gaza’s Health Ministry said on Saturday that Israel’s air and missile strikes in retaliation had killed at least 4,385 Palestinians, including hundreds of children, with more than a million of the tiny territory’s 2.3 million people displaced.
Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said Washington would send more military assets to the Middle East to support Israel and strengthen the U.S. defence posture in the region following “recent escalations by Iran and its proxy forces”.
A Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system and additional Patriot air defence missile system battalions will be sent to the region, and more troops will be put on standby, Austin said.
Washington has already sent a significant amount of naval power to the Middle East in recent weeks, including two aircraft carriers, their support ships and about 2,000 Marines.
Drones and rockets targeted two military bases housing U.S. forces in Iraq last week, the latest in a series of attacks after Iraqi militants warned Washington against intervening to support Israel against Iran-backed Hamas in the Gaza Strip.
Source : Reuters