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UK conducted 50 spy missions over Gaza for Israel: report

The British military has conducted 50 surveillance flights over Gaza since December, a report by investigative news outlet Declassified UK revealed on Thursday.

The reported missions had taken off from Britain’s air base in Cyprus, RAF Akrotiri, and averaged around one a day since the beginning of December, the report said.

According to flight tracking records reviewed by Declassified UK, the reported missions hovered over the besieged strip for around six hours.

The British plane used was the Shadow R1, the report said, adding that the aircraft was known as an intelligence, surveillance, target acquisition and reconnaissance (ISTAR) jet.

The flights began on 3 December, with two R1s flying over Gaza. The flights continued nearly daily up until now, with around half the days featuring two flights, Declassified UK reported.

On 3 January, the British sent an R1 over Gaza three times, the report said.

UK’s Ministry of Defence announced on 2 December that it would begin surveillance missions in Gaza to “support” the “hostage rescue activity”.

“The safety of British nationals is our utmost priority,” the department said. “Surveillance aircraft will be unarmed, do not have a combat role, and will be tasked solely to locate hostages.”

It added: “Only information relating to hostage rescue will be passed to the relevant authorities responsible for hostage rescue.”

Declassified UK said it was unclear what Britain’s R1s can add to the hostage rescue mission, highlighting comments by Defence Minister James Heappey, who told parliament in November that British flights had “provided surveillance support to Israel, including preventing the transfer of weapons to terrorist groups, and to wider regional security”.

Israel’s relentless air and ground campaign on Gaza has killed more than 25,000 people, mostly women and children, and wounded at least 62,500 people.

Source: The New Arab