US MQ-9 Reaper spy drones patroling Gaza's sky to search for hostages held by Hamas, says Pentagon

  • The Pentagon confirmed it has sent unarmed MQ-9 reaper drones to fly over Gaza.

  • The aircraft began flying in the region shortly after the October 7 terrorist attack by Hamas on Israel.

  • The Pentagon said the hi-tech drones were sent to support Israel's hostage-recovery efforts.

The US Defense Department confirmed Friday it has sent surveillance drones into Gaza, indicating the Pentagon is playing an active role in the effort to help rescue hostages held by Hamas.

The unmanned and unarmed MQ-9 Reapers began flying in the region shortly after the October 7 terrorist attack by Hamas on Israel, Pentagon Press Secretary Air Force Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder said in a statement.

The Israeli military says that 242 people were kidnapped by Hamas terrorists that day, including some US citizens.

"In support of hostage recovery efforts, 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," the statement reads, referring to unmanned aerial vehicles.

The remotely piloted MQ-9s are often used for surveillance because they can hang in the air for 24 hours and house a "robust suite of visual sensors for targeting," according to the US Air Force. Each unit costs $56.5 million, per 2021 US Air Force data.

mq-9 reaper drone getting maintenance
An MQ-9 Reaper drone receiving maintenance earlier this year.Department of Defense

The New York Times last week identified MQ-9 Reapers flying over Gaza using the flight-tracking website Flightradar24. Those officials said they believed it was the first time US drones had flown over Gaza. Unnamed US military officials told the Times the spy planes were not supporting Israel's ground-military operations in Gaza.

Hamas is thought to be keeping many of its hostages in its intricate system of tunnels, which presents a challenge to the recovery efforts.

The US military sent warships and troops to the Middle East within hours of the deadly October Hamas attack, and it has also provided weapons to Israel.

On Friday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said there would be no cease-fire in Gaza until all the hostages there had been released.

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