The United States has sent a guided missile submarine to the Middle East after Iran warned America would be ‘hit hard’ if Washington didn’t push for a ceasefire in Gaza.
In a rare announcement, the Pentagon posted an image of the Ohio-class submarine – which can fire Tomahawk cruise missiles – in the Suez Canal just northeast of Cairo.
The U.S. has ramped up its military presence in the region since the horrific onslaught on Israel by Hamas on October 7.
Two aircraft carriers including the world’s largest – the USS Gerald R. Ford – have been sent to the eastern Mediterranean, along with scores of planes that could carry out air strikes.
Now the submarine – which can carry 154 Tomahawk missiles each holding up to 1,000 pounds of explosives in their warheads – has been moved with tensions at boiling point.
The United States has sent a guided missile submarine to the Middle East after Iran warned America would be ‘hit hard’ if Washington didn’t push for a ceasefire. In a rare announcement, the Pentagon posted an image of the Ohio-class submarine that can fire Tomahawk cruise missiles in the Suez Canal just north of Cairo
The image was posted by US Sentral Command as Iran‘s Minister of Defense Mohammad-Reza Ashtiani urged the Biden administration to push for a ceasefire and accused the U.S. of being ‘militarily involved’ in the Israel-Hamas war.
Meanwhile Secretary of State Antony Blinken stepped up his diplomacy by touring the Middle East.
He landed in Ankara on Sunday evening and held talks with Turkey’s Hakan Fidan on Monday morning followed by a meeting of delegations.
Blinken’s shuttle diplomacy came as Israeli troops surrounded Gaza City and cut off the northern part of the besieged Hamas-ruled territory with troops expected to enter the city on Monday or Tuesday, and likely to face militants fighting street by street using a vast network of tunnels.
‘Today I will meet with [Turkish] government leaders as we seek to prevent the spread of the conflict in Gaza and find ways to increase the flow of humanitarian assistance,’ Blinken said in a post on X.
The meeting between Blinken and Fidan lasted two and a half hours, a U.S. State Department official said.
The Secretary of State added that Washington was working ‘very aggressively’ to substantially expand the amount of aid reaching trapped civilians in Gaza.
‘We have made good progress in recent days on expanding’ the aid getting into Gaza, Blinken said following the talks, adding that a ‘pause [in fighting] could help that as well’.
The U.S. is ramping up its forces in the Middle East
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken discussed the situation in Gaza with Turkey’s foreign minister Hakan Fidan (pictured with Blinken)
Palestinians mourn as they sit on the rubble of a building in Gaza City’s Shati refugee camp on November 6 amid ongoing battles between Israel and Hamas
Blinken’s shuttle diplomacy came as Israeli troops surrounded Gaza City and cut off the northern part of the besieged Hamas-ruled territory
No talks were scheduled between Blinken and President Tayyip Erdogan, who has criticised the U.S. over its ‘unlimited support to Israel‘.
Washington wants to prevent a wider regional conflict with ‘humanitarian pauses’ and has stepped up diplomacy with a frantic weekend of travel that took him from Israel to Jordan, the occupied West Bank, Cyprus and Iraq.
Turkey, a NATO member which supports a two-state solution in the Middle East, has sharply escalated its criticism of Israel as the humanitarian crisis in Gaza has deepened.
It also hosts members of Hamas, which is viewed as a terrorist organisation by Western countries but not by Ankara.
Health officials in Hamas-controlled Gaza said more than 9,770 Palestinians have been killed so far in the war, which began when Hamas killed 1,400 people and seized more than 240 hostages in southern Israel on October 7.
Before leaving Turkey, Blinken said: ‘All of this is a work in progress.
‘We don’t obviously agree on everything, but there are common views on some of the imperatives of the moment that we’re working on together.
‘We are very focused on the hostages held by Hamas, including the Americans, and we are doing everything possible to bring them home.’
Outside the Foreign Ministry, dozens of protesters from an Islamist group carried Turkish and Palestinian flags and held up anti-US and anti-Israel placards as the Blinken-Fidan meeting got underway.
Earlier on Monday, police dispersed a group of students marching toward the ministry chanting ‘murderer Blinken, get out of Turkey!’
It was the second day of protests denouncing Blinken’s visit after pro-Palestinian protesters clashed with Turkish riot police outside the US-Turkish Incirlik military air base in the southern city of Adana on Sunday.
Police fired tear gas and water cannon as the demonstrators tried to cross fields to enter the base.
Israeli troops are expected to enter Gaza City on Monday or Tuesday, and likely to face militants fighting street by street using a vast network of tunnels
Israel has rejected the idea of pauses suggested by the US while Arab and Muslim nations are instead demanding an immediate cease-fire
Blinken’s mission, his second to the region since the war began, has found only tepid, if any, support for his efforts to contain the fallout from the conflict.
Israel has rejected the idea of pauses while Arab and Muslim nations are instead demanding an immediate cease-fire as the casualty toll soars among Palestinian civilians under Israeli bombardments.
US officials are seeking to convince Israel of the strategic importance of respecting the laws of war by protecting non-combatants and significantly boosting deliveries of humanitarian aid to Gaza’s beleaguered civilian population.
It remained unclear, however, if Netanyahu would agree to temporary, rolling pauses in the massive operation to eradicate Hamas – or whether outrage among Palestinians and their supporters could be assuaged if he did.
Already, Jordan and Turkey have recalled their ambassadors to Israel to protest its tactics and the tide of international opinion appears to be turning from sympathy toward Israel in the aftermath of October 7 to revulsion as images of death and destruction in Gaza spread around the world.
On Saturday in the Jordanian capital of Amman, both the Egyptian and Jordanian foreign ministers appeared at a joint news conference with Blinken.
The two said Israel’s war had gone beyond self-defense and could no longer be justified as it now amounted to collective punishment of the Palestinian people.
That sentiment was echoed by tens of thousands of demonstrators who marched in the streets of world capitals over the weekend to protest Israel and condemn US support for Israel.
After finishing his talks in Turkey, Blinken will head to Asia where the Gaza conflict will likely share top billing with other international crises at a series of events in Japan, South Korea and India, including Russia’s war on Ukraine and North Korea’s nuclear weapons program.
On Sunday, Blinken flew from the occupied West Bank, where he held talks with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, to Baghdad for talks with Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammed Shia al-Sudani.
When word spread of Blinken’s arrival in the West Bank city of Ramallah, dozens of Palestinians turned out to protest, holding signs showing dripping blood and with messages that included, ‘Blinken blood is on your hands.’ The meeting with Abbas ended without any public comment.
Blinken’s visit to Ankara was met with protests by pro-Palestinian locals
Jordanian Foreign Minister Ayman al-Safedi (center) held a joint press conference with Blinken (right) and Egyptian Foreign Minister Samih Shukri (left) in Amman, Jordan on Saturday
The Palestinian Authority administers semiautonomous areas of the Israeli-occupied West Bank.
It has not been a factor in the Gaza Strip since 2007, when Hamas seized control after winning in elections there a year earlier.
American forces in the region face a surge of attacks by Iranian-allied militias in Iraq and elsewhere.
US forces shot down another one-way attack drone Sunday that was targeting American and coalition troops near their base in neighboring Syria, a U.S. official said.
The Biden administration, while remaining the strongest backer of Israel’s military response to Hamas’ attacks on October 7, is increasingly seeking to use its influence with Israel to try to temper the effect of Israel’s weeks of complete siege and near round-the-clock air, ground and sea assaults in Gaza, home to 2.3 million civilians.
Arab states are resisting American suggestions that they play a larger role in resolving the crisis, expressing outrage at the civilian toll of the Israeli military operations and believing Gaza to be a problem largely of Israel’s own making.