The UK is aiding international efforts to find hostages held by Hamas in Gaza, according to multiple intelligence sources.
UK Government intelligence agencies are actively engaged in a widespread international search for information that could help pinpoint the location of missing people taken during the deadly attacks by Hamas on southern Israel on Saturday, i can reveal.
Rishi Sunak had previously pledged to provide diplomatic, intelligence or security support to Israel, and No 10 said the UK was “poised” to help the country militarily if it requested this.
Now, i can reveal that UK intelligence agencies are aiding the work to find those captured amidst a global effort to locate and retrieve hostages from the region.
Mr Sunak’s comments came after he chaired a Cobra meeting – which is convened to manage the UK’s response to disasters – on Monday afternoon after Palestinian militant groups claimed to be holding up to 150 Israeli and foreign nationals prisoner.
In a following statement on Thursday, the Mr Sunak announced that the UK will deploy surveillance aircraft and two Royal Navy ships to the eastern Mediterranean to help mitigate humanitarian crisis and “support Israel”.
The US has reportedly been leading diplomatic efforts to free some of the hostages, with organisations and authorities from several countries involved, including Qatar and Turkey, alongside Israeli specialists. However, the UK’s involvement in the operation has not yet been officially announced.
Five current and former intelligence officials from GCHQ and MI6 have told i about the UK’s highly secretive operations in the region. i has decided to not publish certain elements of the reporting in order to protect national security and ongoing operations.
A former UK intelligence officer who currently works on contract for the Government said UK intelligence agencies were helping to search the region to “identify individuals and groups of individuals and their locations”, in an attempt to find out where hostages are being held.
Hamas and Palestinian organisation Islamic Jihad have stated that they will not negotiate the hostages’ release until the “end of the battle”. The Al-Qassam Brigades, the armed wing of Hamas, have threatened to execute one hostage for each new Israeli air strike on civilian targets without warning.
As the conflict intensifies, 17 British citizens in Israel are believed to be dead or missing, and the UK has yet to say whether it believes any of its nationals are being held by Hamas. However, two Britons have claimed their family members have been taken by militant groups in Gaza.