US flying drones over Gaza in search of hostages

Two officials said the aim of the surveillance flights was to help in locating hostages, monitor for signs of life and pass potential leads to the Israel Defence Forces….reports Asian Lite News

The US military is flying surveillance drones over the Gaza Strip to help in hostage rescue efforts, The New York Times reported citing its analysis and two Defence Department officials.

The aircraft MQ-9 Reapers, operated by US Special Operations forces, were first spotted on Saturday on Flightradar24, a publicly accessible flight-tracking website. However, Pentagon officials said that the aircraft has been active in the region since the days after Hamas launched a surprise attack on Hamas.

While Israel continues to frequently fly reconnaissance flights over Gaza, US Defence officials said it was believed to be the first time that US drones have flown missions over Gaza, according to The New York Times report.

Notably, Israel is in the early stages of a ground invasion in Gaza. Israel has said that Hamas has held more than 240 hostages, 10 of whom are believed to be Americans. According to US Defence Department officials, the unarmed surveillance flights are not supporting Israeli force’s operations on the ground.

Two officials said the aim of the surveillance flights was to help in locating hostages, monitor for signs of life and pass potential leads to the Israel Defence Forces. The US military has been providing military assistance, including bombs and artillery rounds, to Israel, according to The New York Times report.

The US has deployed two aircraft carriers and hundreds of troops to the Middle East after Hamas launched its attack on Israel on October 7. Several dozen American commandos have been sent to Israel to help advise on hostage recovery efforts. However, the surveillance flights flying over Gaza suggest that the Pentagon is taking a more active role in the IDF mission for rescuing hostages.

There appear to be at least six separate MQ-9 aircraft involved in the effort, The New York Times reported citing Amelia Smith, an aviation researcher who has been tracking the flights. The MQ-9 was designed as the US Air Force’s first “hunter-killer” drone. However, it is primarily being utilised for surveillance missions due to its sophisticated sensors and ability to loiter above an area for more than 20 hours at a time.

The MQ-9 aircraft is being used to carry out airstrikes and gather intelligence in Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria. As per the news report, many militaries around the world make use of MQ-9 and not Israel.

Meanwhile, US President Joe Biden held a meeting with Dominican Republic President Luis Abinader. He also met Chile President Gabriel Boric of Chile in the Oval Office of the White House.

During his separate meetings with leaders of Chile and the Dominican Republic, Biden said the US will continue to back Israel’s right to defend itself “in line with international humanitarian law,” according to the readout of the two meetings released by the White House. He said that the US will continue working to increase humanitarian assistance for people in Gaza.

Meanwhile, US Vice President Kamala Harris reiterated support for Israel during her visit to London, The Times of Israel reported. She said that the US would not add any conditions on the support given to Israel to defend itself.

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