UK to start Gaza surveillance flights to help find hostages
The UK's military will conduct surveillance flights over Gaza to help locate hostages held by Hamas, Britain's defence ministry confirmed at the weekend.
Hamas fighters seized around 240 Israeli and foreign hostages, according to Israeli authorities. Around 110 have since been freed, mainly during a recent week-long truce.
Israel's military resumed fighting in the besieged Palestinian territory on Friday after it walked away from negotiations over a new ceasefire. The resumption of combat has frustrated hopes for the swift release of the more than 130 captives the Israeli army has said are still being held in Gaza.
Israel has not confirmed how many are being held by Hamas.
Israel's relentless air and ground campaign on Gaza has killed more than 15,000 people, mostly civilians, according to the Gaza health ministry.
London did not reveal when its military surveillance flights over the territory would start but stressed they would be unarmed and focused only on hostage recovery efforts.
"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," it said in a statement.
"Surveillance aircraft will be unarmed, do not have a combat role, and will be tasked solely to locate hostages," the ministry added.
"Only information relating to hostage rescue will be passed to the relevant authorities responsible for hostage rescue."
UK government minister Victoria Atkins told the BBC on Sunday that the aircraft to be utilised were "unarmed and unmanned drones".
Alongside the United States, the UK in October deployed various military assets to the eastern Mediterranean to deter "any malign interference in the conflict".
That included maritime patrol and surveillance aircraft as well as a Royal Navy task group moving to the region, the defence ministry said at the time.