China has deployed six warships to the Middle East as the conflict between Israel and Hamas escalates, according to media reports.
The 44th naval escort task force of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) was 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.
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.
Chinese leader Xi Jinping said on Thursday that a two-state solution to establish an independent Palestine is the “fundamental way out” of the Israel-Hamas war.
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.
The Pentagon has placed roughly 2,000 Army and Air Force personnel and a range of units on a state of readiness as Israel prepares for their attack against Hamas.
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.
Even more planes have been dispatched to US military bases in the region, including F-15 and F-16 fighter jet squadrons.