UK to conduct Middle East surveillance flights to help find Hamas hostages

The UK is to conduct unarmed surveillance flights over the Middle East to search for potential hostage locations being used by Hamas, the Ministry of Defence (MoD) has confirmed.

Fighting resumed on Friday following a week-long truce between Israel and the Palestinian military group despite more than 130 hostages remaining in captivity in the Gaza Strip.

In the weeks after Hamas’s bloody October 7 raids on Israel, Downing Street said at least 12 British nationals had been killed in the attack and a further five are still missing.

Some of those are believed to have been kidnapped but the UK Government has not confirmed how many might be in Hamas’s clutches.

The MoD on Saturday said ministers had been working with allies across the Middle East to “secure the release of hostages, including British nationals, who have been kidnapped”.

In a statement published on the Government website, the department said: “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.”

MoD officials said a range of unarmed aircraft would be used for the reconnaissance flights, including Shadow R1s which are used for intelligence gathering by the Royal Air Force (RAF).

Information on the potential whereabouts of captives will be shared with Israel.