US surveillance drones flying over Gaza: Pentagon
US Department of Defense on Friday said that the US military is flying surveillance drones over the Gaza Strip, where Israeli forces is in an early phase of ground invasion after weeks of intense aerial bombing.
The aircraft are MQ-9 Reapers operated by US Special Operations forces, New York Times noted. They were first spotted on Saturday on Flightradar24, a publicly accessible flight-tracking website, though Pentagon officials said that the aircraft have been active in the area since the days after the 7 October incursions into Israel by the Hamas group.
The unarmed surveillance flights are not supporting Israeli military operations on the ground, according to the officials. Two officials said the goal was to assist in locating hostages, monitor for signs of life and pass potential leads to the Israel Defense Forces.
The officials added that it was believed to be the first time that US drones have flown missions over Gaza.
Israel's wave of attacks on the Palestinian enclave was launched immediately after Hamas's surprise attack that left at some 1,400 soldiers and civilians dead. More than 240 Israelis were taken captive by the group and taken back to Gaza to be held as hostages.
Over 9,200 Palestinians have been killed so far in Gaza in recent Israeli attacks. Most of the fatalities are children and women.
The US military has also been providing military aid, including bombs and artillery rounds, to Israel, and has deployed two aircraft carriers and hundreds of troops to the Middle East since the 7 October attack. Several dozen American commandos have been dispatched to Israel to help advise on hostage recovery efforts.