Why US is moving F-18 fighter jets to Saudi Arabia as Israel-Hamas conflict escalates

The detachment of F/A-18s along with squadron personnel, from Marine Corps  will rapidly integrate into the US Air Forces Central’s theater air operations

US F-18 hornet to Saudi Arabia

Amid the conflict between Israel and Hamas, the United States Air Forces Central Command has decided to employ US Marine Corps F/A-18D Hornet aircraft from Marine All Weather Fighter Squadron 224, Marine Aircraft Group 31, to be deployed at Prince Sultan Air Base, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

"The detachment of F/A-18s along with squadron personnel, from Marine Corps Air Station, Beaufort, South Carolina, will rapidly integrate into the US Air Forces Central’s theater air operations, including participating in coalition and regional partner-nation integration events," it added.

“Dynamic force employment deployments demonstrate the ability to move combat capability into theater just in time for when it is required, not just in case it might be needed,” said Lt. Gen. Greg Guillot, 9th Air Force (Air Forces Central) commander.

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US Air Force fighter units

CENTCOM’s last dynamic force deployment, a detachment of US Air Force F-15E Strike Eagles from Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, S.C. had occurred in January 2021.

“These short-term, high-intensity deployments also enhance readiness for both AFCENT and the deploying units," Guillot added.

"AFCENT has conducted two DFE events with Air Force fighter units over the past seven months, and both units departed the theater at a higher level of readiness than when they arrived. 9th Air Force (Air Forces Central) is excited to now integrate our Marine Corps partners for this iteration,” he said.

Dynamic operations and force employment deliver joint force commanders the critical capability to move forces fluidly into and across the theater in order to seize, retain and exploit the initiative against an adversary.

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Israel bombs Gaza

Israel airstrike (file photo)

(Photograph:AFP)

'It's like a horror film'

Muhammad Najib, a 16-year-old resident of Gaza City's Rimal neighbourhood, compared the bombing to a video game. "It's like a horror film," he said.

Um Raed al-Baghdadi, one of scores of people who fled her home amid the shelling, told AFP that Gazans "who have been in war since childhood... cannot bear it anymore."   

Israeli soldiers massed on the edge of the blockaded territory Friday, and army spokesman Jonathan Conricus took responsibility for an erroneous overnight report that ground forces had entered Gaza.  

The conflict has killed 119 Palestinians in Gaza, including 31 children, and wounded more than 830, Gaza's health minister said.      

A woman in her 50s died late Thursday after she fell while seeking shelter from rockets, according to the Sheba Medical Center, bringing the death toll on the Israeli side to nine, including a child and a soldier. 

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'We will not tolerate anarchy'

Within Israel, an unprecedented wave of mob violence has seen Arabs and Jews savagely beat each other and attack places of worship.

Defence Minister Benny Gantz ordered a "massive reinforcement" to suppress the internal unrest.

More than 750 people have been arrested this week, including more than 100 overnight, police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said.

In Lod, where an Arab man was shot dead by a Jewish Israeli on Monday, the outside of a synagogue was burnt overnight while 43 people were arrested, Rosenfeld told AFP. 

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said police were increasing their use of force, warning of the "option" of deploying soldiers in towns.

"We will not tolerate anarchy," he said late Thursday.   

"Nothing justifies the lynching of Arabs by Jews, and nothing justifies the lynching of Jews by Arabs," he said, adding Israel was fighting a battle "on two fronts".

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Hamas fires rockets at Ramon

Israel's civil aviation authority said it was directing incoming flights to Tel Aviv to circle offshore when rockets are being fired from Gaza, with pilots choosing whether to divert to Ramon airport in the south or wait until runways are checked for ordnance.

Hamas announced it had fired a rocket at Ramon in a bid to stop all air traffic to Israel.

Late in the day, dozens of rockets were fired from Gaza at Ashdod and Ashkelon, coastal southern Israeli cities, as well as in the vicinity of the Ben Gurion airport in central Israel.

All incoming passenger flights were diverted Ramon airport in the south earlier in the day.

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Hamas fires over 1,600 rockets towards Israel

A spokesman for Hamas' armed wing announced the launch of the rocket and demanded that "all international airlines immediately halt their flights to any airports" in the Jewish state.

Hamas has fired over 1,600 rockets towards Israel since Monday, with the Israel military saying it struck Gaza targets over 600 times.

Earlier Thursday, Israel's civil aviation authority said it had diverted all incoming passenger flights headed for Tel Aviv's Ben Gurion airport to Ramon airport, as air raid warnings once more went off across Israel.

International carriers were meanwhile cancelling flights to Israel.

In Gaza, 83 people were reported killed since Monday, with seven killed on the Israeli side.

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Israel army receives rocket warning

Israel's army said it had received a rocket warning in the north of the country, the first time the alert has been given there since hostilities soared between Israel and Palestinians earlier this week.

Since hostilities escalated on Monday evening, Hamas has fired around 1,500 rockets from Gaza into Israeli territory, according to the latest estimate by Israel's army.

The launch of around 350 rockets had failed, while hundreds more were intercepted by Israel's Iron Dome air defence system, the army said.

Seven people in Israel have been killed by the onslaught, including a six-year-old and a soldier.

The Palestinian health ministry said the death toll from the violence in the territory since Monday has risen to 67 fatalities and 388 injured.

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Several top Hamas commanders killed

Hamas said several of its top commanders were killed in Israeli strikes including its military chief in Gaza City, Bassem Issa.

Israel's internal security agency, Shin Bet, named Issa as one of the four top Hamas militants who it said were killed.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addressed the killing, noting he had warned that the lives of Palestinian militants in Gaza were at risk.

"This is just the beginning; we'll deliver them blows they haven't dreamt of," he said while visiting an Israeli girl wounded in a rocket attack at a hospital in the centre of the country.

(Photograph:AFP)

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