China deploys six warships to Middle East over fears Israel crisis could spark WW3
The Chinese military has deployed its 44th naval escort task force to the Middle East amid rising tensions in Israel.
09:24 ET, Sat, Oct 21, 2023 | UPDATED: 15:28 ET, Sat, Oct 21, 2023
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The 44th naval escort task force – from the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Eastern Theatre – has been involved in routine operations in the region and spent several days in Oman last week.
The Chinese warships left Muscat for an unspecified location on Saturday after participating in an exercise with the Omani navy.
The task force includes the Zibo, a guided missile destroyer, the frigate Jingzhou, and the supply ship Qiandaohu – all of which will be stationed in the Middle East as Israel prepares for a ground invasion of Gaza.
During the visit to Oman, Chinese commanders met with Omani military officials and visited military institutions, while sailors from both countries toured shops and even organized a basketball game, according to a state news agency.
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A Chinese Navy warship is seen in the contested waters in the South China sea on Oct. 4, 2023 (Image: AP)
Since arriving in the Gulf of Aden north of Somalia six months ago, the PLA task force has been involved in escort missions for shipping.
However, it handed over its mission to the 45th task force – from the PLA’s Northern Theatre command – earlier this month.
According to China’s state broadcaster CCTV, Xi said: “The top priority now is a ceasefire as soon as possible, to avoid the conflict from expanding or even spiraling out of control and causing a serious humanitarian crisis.”
China’s deployment comes after the US sent a powerful arsenal to the Middle East earlier this week.
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The USS Gerald R. Ford was deployed to the eastern Mediterranean earlier this week (Image: Getty)
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The US sent two aircraft carriers – including the USS Gerald R. Ford and the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower – to the eastern Mediterranean along with planes that could carry out airstrikes.