The Pentagon has confirmed flying unarmed MQ-9 Reaper drones over Gaza to help recover Hamas-held hostages.
The confirmation came as open-source flight trackers spotted unmarked aircraft hovering over the Palestinian territory.
“These UAV flights began after the Oct 7 attack by Hamas on Israel,” BBC quoted the Pentagon as saying.
240 Captives, Including Americans
It is unclear whether the effort is aimed at freeing all the over 240 captives or just the US ones, ABC News wrote, citing an unnamed US official.
Ten Americans have been unaccounted for from Israel since October 7 when the Palestinian armed group breached Israeli borders, killing over a thousand and taking back dozens as hostages.
Hostage Rescue Effort
The flights appear to be part of a broader US effort to assist Israel in locating the hostages, including the presence of US Special Operations Forces for planning and intelligence support.
“The US is conducting unarmed UAV flights over Gaza, as well as providing advice and assistance to support our Israeli partner as they work on their hostage recovery efforts,” BBC quoted the Pentagon as saying.
Featuring an endurance of over 20 hours and high-resolution video and infrared cameras, the Reaper is primarily deployed for surveillance missions.
Its sensors can provide signals intelligence involving communication devices such as cell phones.
It can also be armed with up to eight Hellfire missiles for precision strikes.
CIA Director in Israel
Meanwhile, Central Intelligence Agency director William Burns arrived in Israel Sunday on the first stop of a multicountry trip in the region.
Expanded intelligence sharing between the US and Israel — “that could be useful about hostage locations or any follow-on attacks by Hamas” — is one of the visit’s agendas, according to the New York Times.