U.S. flying drones over Gaza in search of hostages

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The United States has been flying surveillance drones over Gaza in search of hostages taken by Hamas when the Palestinian militant group attacked Israel on Oct. 7, two U.S. officials said on Thursday.

The two U.S. officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said the U.S was flying intelligence gathering drones over Gaza to assist with hostage location efforts. One of the officials said they had been carrying out the drone flights for over a week.

U.S. officials have said 10 Americans who remain unaccounted for may be among the more than 200 people taken as hostages into Gaza, where they are believed to be held in Hamas’ extensive tunnel network.

Israeli forces on Thursday encircled Gaza City – the Gaza Strip’s main city – in their assault on Hamas, which resisted with hit-and-run attacks from underground tunnels.

The city in the north of Gaza has become the focus of attack for Israel, which has vowed to annihilate the Islamist group’s command structure and has told civilians to flee to the south.

Hamas fighters launched a surprise attack into Israel on Oct. 7, killing 1,400 people, mostly civilians, according to Israeli officials, in the deadliest day of the nation’s 75-year history.

Israel’s retaliation bombardment and ground offensive of the small Palestinian enclave of 2.3 million has killed at least 9,061 people, according to Gaza health authorities.

(Reporting by Phil Stewart and Idrees Ali; Editing by Michael Perry)