UK backing Israel after it declares ‘siege’ on Gaza following Hamas attack

Foreign Secretary James Cleverly said the UK will “continue to support Israel” after Tel Aviv announced a “complete siege” on the Gaza strip following Hamas’ attack.

Speaking after an emergency Cobra meeting chaired by Prime Minister Rishi Sunak to discuss the situation in Israel, Mr Cleverly said Hamas fighters were “shielding themselves among the Palestinian people”.

At least 700 people have reportedly been killed in Israel and more than 400 are dead in Gaza, more than two days after Hamas launched its unprecedented attack.

Jackson Carlaw, Conservative Member of the Scottish Parliament (MSP) for Eastwood, East Renfrewshire, said the family of Bernard Cowan, a former constituent, had confirmed he was “murdered on Saturday by Hamas”.

Mr Carlaw said it was “desperately sad and grim news”.

Ahead of Monday’s Cobra meeting, Downing Street had said it supported Tel Aviv responding with “proportionate action” to the Palestinian militants’ bloody weekend incursion.

Mr Cleverly, asked by broadcasters in Westminster whether Israel’s siege on the Gaza strip met that definition, said: “Israel has a right to defend itself against attack.

“The UK completely supports Israel’s right to defend itself proportionately.

“The truth of the matter is that this was a terrorist attack, perpetrated by Hamas, who are embedded in Gaza, shielding themselves among the Palestinian people in Gaza.

“And we will continue to support Israel as it seeks to defend itself against this brutal terrorist attack initiated by Hamas.”

The Foreign Secretary said, in light of the surprise offensive orchestrated by Hamas, the UK was “reviewing” its support for Israel.

Mr Cleverly also said he was “uncomfortable speculating” on the numbers of British people affected by the violence after it was reported that more than 10 Britons are feared dead or missing.

He said Israel’s “unique status” meant there were a large number of British-Israeli dual nationals, with Government estimates suggesting about 50,000 to 60,000 Britons are believed to be in either Israel and Gaza.

Among them are the parents-in-law of Scotland’s First Minister, Humza Yousaf.

The SNP leader said the parents of his wife, Nadia El-Nakla, are now “trapped” in Gaza, where they were visiting family when the strikes on Israel began.

Mr Cleverly, when asked about the case of Mr Yousaf’s in-laws, said he had been in contact with his Egyptian counterpart to discuss “management” of its land border with the Gaza strip.

Israel Palestine
A site struck by a rocket fired from the Gaza Strip, in Ashkelon, southern Israel (Tsafrir Abayov/AP)

Two other UK nationals, 26-year-old Jake Marlowe, who went to the same London school as Mr Young, and photographer Dan Darlington, are believed to be missing.

Mr Marlowe was providing security at a party in the desert near Kibbutz Re’im when the area was attacked by Hamas.

The Government is helping the families of several individuals in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories.

The Foreign Office has advised against all but essential travel to the region and Mr Cleverly said flights out of Israel are still available for those wanting to leave.

There are no plans for a UK-facilitated evacuation of British citizens from Israel, and those in need of support are advised to contact the Foreign Office.

Mr Sunak, who spoke to his Israeli counterpart Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday, has promised to offer Israel any support it needs as it hits back at the Palestinian militants.

“We already have a very long-standing relationship with Israel, we’re one of their strongest allies,” Mr Sunak said on Monday.

“We’ve provided in the past the kinds of equipment that they’ve used to defend themselves over the past couple of days.

Gaza graphic
(PA Graphics)

On Sunday the US dispatched an aircraft carrier strike group to the eastern Mediterranean to be ready to assist Israel, and said it will send additional military aid.

Downing Street said the UK is not planning to redeploy military assets to the Middle East, with warship HMS Duncan already in the Mediterranean as part of Nato patrols.

Separately, the European Union announced it would be suspending “all payments immediately” to the Palestinians in response to the weekend’s atrocities – before it then reversed the decision.

Deputy Prime Minister Oliver Dowden said the UK was reviewing its aid but told ITV’s Peston: “It is already the case, though, that we go through a very rigorous process for the sort of aid we provide.

“It’s also very important to appreciate that we shouldn’t clump together the Hamas terrorists in the Gaza Strip who have carried out these attacks and the Palestinian Authority and the Palestinian people.”

The most senior Palestinian diplomat in the UK accused Israel of a “war crime” against civilians.

Husam Zomlot, the head of the Palestinian mission in London, condemned the killing of civilians by Hamas, but said Israel is seeking “sheer vengeance” in its retaliation.

He said: “Those are civilians, families. It’s not going to resolve anything.

“Cutting water and electricity from two million people is a collective punishment. It’s a war crime. It’s not going to lead anywhere.”

He told an event on the fringes of the Labour Party conference in Liverpool that he had lost six members of his own family to an Israeli bombardment on Monday.

The British Red Cross has launched an emergency fundraising appeal to provide humanitarian support in Israel and Gaza.

Mike Adamson, chief executive at the charity, said: “In keeping with our principles of neutrality, staff and volunteers have been working around the clock to respond to this crisis, including providing medical treatment for the injured. These efforts are being put at risk by the ongoing violence.

“With the casualties in their thousands, it is vital that healthcare workers and health facilities are protected so people can get the urgent care they need.”

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