RAF to fly over Gaza to help locate Israeli hostages

British aircraft will take part in unarmed surveillance flights over the Palestinian enclave


2018 Getty Images

British aircraft will fly surveillance flights over Gaza to locate hostages, the Ministry of Defence has announced.

The RAF will use unarmed aircraft that do not have a combat role to sweep the skies over Israel and the Palestinian territory.

Only information relevant to securing the release of hostages will be turned over to authorities responsible for rescuing them, the ministry emphasised.

Since the start of the ceasefire deal, 110 kidnapped civilians, including both Israelis and foreign nationals, have been released by Hamas.

78 of those are women and children swapped in prisoner exchanges agreed between Israel and the terror group, with 180 Palestinians released from jail.

On Friday, Israel said 136 hostages remain in Gaza however, including 119 men and 17 women and children.

Around 10 are 75-years-old or older.

Hamas claim the youngest captive taken, 10-month-old Kfir Bibas, his 4-year-old brother Ariel, and their mother Shiri were all killed in an IDF airstrike, but have not returned their bodies.

Sharone Lifschitz, whose mother was freed from Gaza in October, said she was deeply concerned about the health of her father, who remains a prisoner.

“My father is ill, is frail. He needs medicine,” she told AP. “I don’t know how long he can survive in such harsh conditions.”

Several hostages have died in Hamas captivity since October 7, including 56-year-old Maya Goren, 86-year-old Arye Zalmanovich, 54-year-old Ronan Engel, and 75-year-old Eliyahu Margalit, who were all seized from Kibbutz Nir Oz.

On Saturday, the MOD 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.”

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