American UAVs, identified as MQ-9 Reapers, have been spotted on flight-tracking websites. The primary function of these UAVs, according to the Pentagon, is to help the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) locate and recover the over 200 hostages held by Hamas and other Palestinian militants in Gaza. The MQ-9 Reapers are considered to be valuable in this regard due to their capacity to remain airborne over target areas for over 20 hours.
"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. These UAV flights began after the Oct. 7 attack by Hamas on Israel," said Pentagon Press Secretary Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder. "Just to be crystal clear, it is [Israel's] operation; they're running their operation when it comes to strikes on Gaza. But the U.S. is helping with planning and intelligence for hostage recovery."
The UAVs may also be able to assist the IDF in tracking Hamas militants. However, the Pentagon clarified that drones are focused on hostage recovery and are not intended for lethal strikes against Hamas leaders. Military officials confirmed that they retain control of the drones and only share information with the IDF related to the hostages.
National Security Council spokesman John Kirby reiterated America's commitment to Israeli sovereignty and the principle that foreign troops would not be deployed on Israeli soil in an Oct. 12 briefing.
"The Israelis have made it very clear that they don't want foreign troops on their soil, that they want to prosecute these operations on their own. The Israelis have made it clear that they would not welcome [foreign involvement] in any event," Kirby stated.
As a response, the U.S. has repositioned its military assets in the region to deter further escalation of the Israel-Hamas conflict.
The U.S. has strategically placed two carrier strike groups; an amphibious ready group with an embarked Marine Expeditionary Unit; several Air Force fighter squadrons; and 300 support troops in the U.S. Central Command to bolster force protection measures and support regional stability. (Related: Second U.S. carrier strike group arrives in eastern Mediterranean Sea to deter hostile actions against Israel.)
Last month, the U.S. Navy intercepted and neutralized multiple drones and rockets launched from Yemen that appeared to be targeting Israel. In response to the escalating conflict, the U.S. also dispatched two aircraft carriers to the eastern Mediterranean, with the stated goal of preventing the conflict between Hamas and Israel from spreading.
Moreover, the U.S. also deployed two MQ-9 Reapers, sophisticated surveillance drones, to monitor the situation off the coast of Lebanon and closely watch for any signs of escalation.
However, Hassan Nasrallah, the leader of Lebanon's Hezbollah, warned the U.S. not to use the American fleets in the Mediterranean to launch attacks against his militant group.
"Your fleets in the Mediterranean do not scare us and will never scare us," Nasrallah said in a fiery speech on Nov. 3.
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Watch this video that talks about the deployment of another carrier strike group to the Mediterranean.
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