Sunak says Israel has ‘right to defend itself’ as Netanyahu warns ‘we are at war’

Rishi Sunak has said Israel has “an absolute right to defend itself” and the country’s prime minister said it was “at war” after at least 200 people were killed during attacks by Palestinian militants from the Gaza Strip.

The UK Prime Minister said the Government is in contact with Israeli authorities after Hamas sent fighters across the border and fired thousands of rockets in what it said was a new operation.

Israel’s premier Benjamin Netanyahu said the group would “pay a price that it hasn’t known until now” as he called up reservists.

And at least 198 people have been killed and 1,610 wounded in Gaza in Israeli retaliation, according to the Palestinian Health Ministry.

Videos released by Hamas suggested at least three Israelis had been captured alive.

And footage has been posted on social media of Hamas fighters parading what appeared to be stolen Israeli military vehicles through the streets.

Mr Sunak, writing on X, said: “I am shocked by this morning’s attacks by Hamas terrorists against Israeli citizens.

“Israel has an absolute right to defend itself.

“We’re in contact with Israeli authorities, and British nationals in Israel should follow travel advice.”

Conservative Party Conference 2023
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said he was shocked by the attacks in Israel (Peter Byrne/PA)

He said: “The United States unequivocally condemns this appalling assault against Israel by Hamas terrorists from Gaza, and I made clear to Prime Minister Netanyahu that we stand ready to offer all appropriate means of support to the government and people of Israel.

“Terrorism is never justified. Israel has a right to defend itself and its people. The United States warns against any other party hostile to Israel seeking advantage in this situation. My administration’s support for Israel’s security is rock solid and unwavering.

“Jill and I are keeping in our prayers all of the families who have been hurt by this violence. We are heartbroken by the lives that have been tragically cut short and hope for a swift recovery for all those who have been wounded.

“My team and I are tracking this situation closely, and I will remain in close touch with Prime Minister Netanyahu.”

“Hamas are not ‘militants’.

“Hamas are terrorists.

“There is no other word to describe the brutality of firing rockets or terrorist attacks targeting civilians.”

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said: “I utterly condemn the ongoing attacks on Israel and her citizens.

“There is no justification for this act of terror which is being perpetrated by those who seek to undermine any chance for future peace in the region.

“Israel has a right to defend herself.”

Israel has blockaded Gaza since Islamic militant group Hamas gained control of the territory in 2007 and the two have fought wars ever since.

Conservative Party Conference 2023
Foreign Secretary James Cleverly condemned the attack (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

“We are at war,” Mr Netanyahu said.

“Not an ‘operation’, not a ’round’, but at war.”

The prime minister also ordered the military to clear the infiltrated towns of Hamas militants that remained locked in gunfights with Israeli soldiers.

Hamas caught Israel off-guard on Simchat Torah, a major holiday, with a show of force including the deployment of dozens of soldiers to the country’s heavily fortified border on Saturday.

The attack revived memories of the 1973 war almost 50 years to the day, in which Israel’s enemies launched a surprise attack on Yom Kippur.

Hezbollah congratulated Hamas, describing the attack as a response to “Israeli crimes” and saying the militants had “divine backing”.

The group said its command in Lebanon was in contact with Hamas about the operation.

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