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RAF to fly over Gaza to help find Hamas hostages

Shadow R1 reconnaissance aircraft pictured on a practice flight in the UK
'Surveillance aircraft will be unarmed, do not have a combat role, and will be tasked solely to locate hostages,' the Ministry of Defence said - Gordon Elias/RAF

The Royal Air Force will conduct surveillance flights over Gaza to help locate hostages taken by Hamas on Oct 7, the Ministry of Defence revealed last night.

Unarmed Shadow R1 reconnaissance aircraft are being sent to Israel “in support of the ongoing hostage rescue activity”.

The announcement came after fighting resumed between Israel and Hamas following a week-long ceasefire.

Israel has said that Hamas has failed to release 15 women and two children who were expected to be freed during the ceasefire, while the terrorist group claimed it held no women.

According to Israel, a 10-month-old baby was handed over by Hamas to another Palestinian militant group.

On Saturday, the ministry said: “Since the terrorist attacks against Israel of Oct 7 2023, the UK Government has been working with partners across the region to secure the release of hostages, including British nationals, who have been kidnapped. The safety of British nationals is our utmost priority.

“In support of the ongoing hostage rescue activity, the UK Ministry of Defence will conduct surveillance flights over the eastern Mediterranean, including operating in air space over Israel and Gaza.

“Surveillance aircraft will be unarmed, do not have a combat role, and will be tasked solely to locate hostages. Only information relating to hostage rescue will be passed to the relevant authorities responsible for hostage rescue.”

Britain previously sent warships and aircraft to the eastern Mediterranean to help track threats to regional stability, including the transfer of weapons to terrorist groups.

On Friday, Rishi Sunak, the Prime Minister, said: “The breakdown of the truce today is deeply disappointing, not least because a growing number of hostages were coming home.

“We want all hostages released – and in this initial phase all women and children should be freed.”