The Pentagon has deepened its role in the Israel-Gaza conflict, revealed in the fact that advanced US surveillance drones are now in active operations over the Gaza Strip.
A US military spokesman on Friday confirmed fresh NY Times reporting which said MQ-9 Reaper drones have been among the UAVs flying over the region, including off the Lebanese coast as tensions with Hezbollah soar.
“In support of hostage recovery efforts, the U.S. 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,” Pentagon press secretary Brig. Gen. Patrick Ryder said Friday. “These UAV flights began after the Oct. 7 attack by Hamas on Israel.”
The MQ-9 is among the most advanced drones in America’s arsenal, and can be armed for combat or equipped for spying and monitoring missions.
Israel has estimated that 240 or more hostages are being held by Hamas, possibly in its vast network of tunnels, but previously said dozens may have already been killed. While two American captives had been released a couple weeks ago, there are believed to be many more dual nationals – also from other countries. Hamas has said it sees that all captives as Israelis regardless.
According to the Times report, “The aircraft are MQ-9 Reapers operated by U.S. Special Operations forces and were first spotted on Saturday on Flightradar24, a publicly accessible flight-tracking website, though Pentagon officials said that the aircraft have been active in the area since the days after the Oct. 7 surprise attack on Israel by Hamas.”
“While Israel frequently conducts reconnaissance flights over Gaza, U.S. defense officials said it was believed to be the first time that U.S. drones have flown missions over Gaza,” NYT noted.
For the past week I’ve been tracking mysterious tracks that appear south of Crete, fly over Gaza for 3 hours, and then fly back. I suspected these to be MQ-9A Reapers. Thanks to excellent work by @riley_mellen & @EricSchmittNYT, we have some more details.https://t.co/Su0WeUr39r
— Amelia Smith (@ameliairheart) November 2, 2023
Importantly, the Pentagon has sought to stress that “The unarmed surveillance flights are not supporting Israeli military operations on the ground” but instead, “Two officials said the goal was to assist in locating hostages, monitor for signs of life and pass potential leads to the Israel Defense Forces.”
Already, the US has been providing the bulk of new bombs, ammo, and military equipment freshly coming into Tel Aviv amid the IDF ground offensive. As for the prior Biden White House pledge of no American boots on the ground amid escalation in the region, many pundits remain skeptical…
Pentagon official admits to US “boots on the ground” in Israel conducting unspecified war operations pic.twitter.com/egzcpGzrUo
— Michael Tracey (@mtracey) November 1, 2023
Days prior to the revelation of US drones over Gaza’s skies, the NY Times also reported the following:
American commandos on the ground in Israel are helping locate the more than 200 hostages seized during Hamas’s surprise cross-border attacks on Oct. 7, the Pentagon’s top special operations policy official said on Tuesday.
“We’re actively helping the Israelis to do a number of things,” Christopher P. Maier, an assistant secretary of defense, told a special operations conference in Washington. He said that a main task was to help Israel “identify hostages, including American hostages. It’s really our responsibility to do so.”
It’s as yet unknown how many of these US special forces members are in Israel in this ‘support’ capacity. When the Oct.7 Hamas attack happened, there was also reportedly a US commando team already present in Israel conducting routine training.
It must be remembered that currently there’s a US naval and allied coalition build-up in the Mediterranean, including a couple of carrier strikes groups…
US aircraft carriers Gerald R. Ford (CVN-78) and Dwight D Eisenhower (CVN-69) with accompanying strike groups, 2 Italian frigates and the 6th Fleet command ship Mount Whitney dated today (November 3). https://t.co/WgYGOLF7Bq pic.twitter.com/jPm1g5KD30
— Evergreen Intel (@vcdgf555) November 3, 2023
Hezbollah has said it was earlier given a warning by the United States that southern Lebanon would come under attack by US warships and fighter jets if the Shia paramilitary group backed by Iran opened a full war on northern Israel. So far, this major escalation hasn’t happened, but it’s easy to see that with the significant number of major US military assets deployed in the air and at sea, the situation could explode quickly.