The U.S. military deployed unarmed drones in Gaza to assist Israeli armed forces in searching for hostages held by Hamas, the Department of Defense confirmed on Friday.
Hamas militants captured about 200 hostages during its surprise attack on Israel early last month, which also killed more than a thousand Israeli civilians and sparked the ongoing war in Gaza.
“In support of hostage recovery efforts, the U.S. is conducting unarmed UAV [unmanned aerial vehicle] flights over Gaza, as well as providing advice and assistance to support our Israeli partner as they work on their hostage recovery efforts. These UAV flights began after the Oct. 7 attack by Hamas on Israel.” said Pentagon press secretary Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder in a statement.
Some of the hostages are U.S. citizens, but exactly how many is unknown.
Israeli airstrikes on Gaza have killed more than 9,200 people, including over 3,800 children, according to the Hamas-run Gaza Health Ministry.
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The Biden administration urged the Israeli military to halt its ground invasion of the territory this week in favor of a “humanitarian pause” in the conflict in order to assist and evacuate civilians.
“I think we need a pause. A pause means give time to get the prisoners out,” President Biden said Wednesday.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken was in Israel on Saturday to deliver the same message, though the administration has not backed a total cease-fire in the conflict.
More than a dozen Democratic Senators urged Biden to back a pause in hostilities this week.
“The failure to adequately protect non-combatant civilians risks dramatic escalation of the conflict in the region and imposes severe damage on prospects for peaceful coexistence between Israelis and Palestinians,” reads the Democrats’ letter, which was led by Sens. Ed Markey (Mass.) and Tim Kaine (Va.).
“Based on the consensus opinion of U.S. and international aid officials, it is nearly impossible to deliver sufficient humanitarian aid to protect civilian life under current conditions,” the senators added. “Thus, we join President Biden in his call for a short-term cessation of hostilities that pose high-risk to civilians, aid workers or humanitarian aid delivery in Gaza.”
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Saturday that there would be no pause before Hamas released the hostages.