Rishi Sunak has said the UK Government stands in “full solidarity” with Israel against a “cowardly and depraved” attack after more than 200 people were killed during an incursion by Palestinian militants from the Gaza Strip.
Britain will co-ordinate support for the Middle Eastern country with international partners over the next 24 hours as it reels from a surprise onslaught by Hamas on Saturday, the Prime Minister said.
Israel’s premier Benjamin Netanyahu said “we are at war” following the attack, and that the group would “pay a price that it hasn’t known until now” as he called up reservists.
Mr Sunak wrote on social media: “As the barbarity of today’s atrocities becomes clearer, we stand unequivocally with Israel. This attack by Hamas is cowardly and depraved.
“We have expressed our full solidarity to @netanyahu and will work with international partners in the next 24 hours to co-ordinate support.”
At least 250 people have been killed and 1,500 have been wounded in the violence, according to the country’s national rescue service – making it the deadliest attack in Israel in years.
And at least 232 people have been killed and 1,700 wounded in Gaza in Israeli retaliation, according to the Palestinian Health Ministry.
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.
Videos released by Hamas suggested at least three Israelis had been captured alive.
And footage has been posted on social media of fighters from the group parading what appeared to be stolen Israeli military vehicles through the streets.
US President Joe Biden said he spoke to Mr Netanyahu about the “horrific and ongoing attacks” in Israel.
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.”
Foreign Secretary James Cleverly wrote on social media: “Hamas are not ‘fighters’.
“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.
In a televised address, Mr Netanyahu made his first remarks since the Gaza Strip’s Hamas rulers launched a major, multi-front attack on Israel at daybreak on Saturday.
“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.
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.