Israel-Hamas war: UK-based Hamas supporters will be held to account, Sunak vows
and live on Freeview channel 276
Anyone in the UK found to be supporting Hamas in the wake of its “barbaric acts of terrorism” on Israel will be held to account, the Prime Minister has vowed. Rishi Sunak reminded the public that Hamas, which rules the Gaza Strip and facilitated a deadly attack on Israel at the weekend, is a “proscribed terror organisation” banned in the UK.
“People should not be supporting Hamas and we will make sure that we hold people to account if they are,” he told broadcasters on Tuesday. The Prime Minister leader said police have been given “clear guidance” to “clamp down on any behaviour that falls foul of the law”.
That message was backed by Foreign Secretary James Cleverly, who urged pro-Palestine supporters in the UK not to protest, saying demonstrations are creating “distress”. The senior Cabinet minister said there is no “equivalence” between Hamas’s attack and Tel Aviv’s response, which has seen Gaza put under siege.
Mr Sunak has looked to reassure Britain’s Jewish community in the wake of Hamas’s surprise assault that they will be protected, using a visit to a north London synagogue on Monday to tell those gathered for prayer that he stands by Israel.
It comes after police separated pro-Palestinian and pro-Israel groups in west London on Monday evening, with the flare-up of the conflict sparking reaction in British communities.
Hundreds of pro-Palestinian protesters gathered outside the Israeli embassy in Kensington to demonstrate on that same evening, letting off fireworks, lighting flares and chanting “Israel is a terrorist state”, “Free Palestine” and “Allahu akbar”.
Only a few miles east of that demonstration, more than 4,000 people are estimated to have joined a vigil outside Downing Street organised by the Board of Deputies of British Jews and the Jewish Leadership Council.
Home Office minister Robert Jenrick, according to the Board of Deputies, told those gathered that “valorising the terrorism of Hamas is a serious criminal offence”. He said: "There can be no tolerance of this hatred and antisemitism in our country."
The reaction comes after Palestinian militant group Hamas sent fighters across the border into Israel and fired thousands of rockets in an unprecedented strike on Saturday, which also saw a music festival targeted.
Since the weekend’s atrocities, Israel has cut Gaza off from deliveries of food, fuel, medicine and other supplies and has launched retaliatory air strikes on the 25-mile stretch, which is home to 2.3 million people.
More than 900 people have been killed in Israel, according to the Israeli military, with authorities in Gaza saying about 700 have been killed in the territory and the West Bank, with dozens more taken hostage by Hamas.
Israel has vowed a retaliation against Hamas that will “reverberate … for generations”, with its mobilisation of 360,000 reservists raising questions about whether Tel Aviv will order a ground invasion. Mr Cleverly confirmed to LBC that a “significant number” of British-Israeli nationals are caught up in the conflict in Israel and Gaza.
He has previously said that many of those dual nationals will regard Israel “as their home” and may even be serving in the Israeli Defence Force, suggesting that not all of them will require Foreign Office assistance.
Mr Sunak said his administration “stands ready” to support families with loved ones in Israel. Speaking to broadcasters during a visit to east Staffordshire, he told broadcasters: “I know there will be families who are anxious about their loved ones in the region.
“I want to reassure them we’re doing everything we can, working very closely with the Israeli authorities to establish what is happening on the ground, provide support to people where it is needed.”
UK citizens trying to fly home from Israel face a struggle to book flights, with routes between Tel Aviv and the UK cancelled, fully booked or with only a few spare seats costing more than £1,200 each. British ministers have stressed in recent days the UK’s staunch support for Tel Aviv.
The Foreign Secretary, during his round of radio and TV interviews on Tuesday, said no comparison can be drawn between Israel’s military response and the incursion by Hamas.
“The truth is that the reason we express our solidarity with the people of Israel is because terrorists took action to murder, to kidnap, and we’re now seeing reports that they are threatening to execute people that they have kidnapped,” Mr Cleverly told Sky.
“The idea that somehow there is an equivalence, there is a kind of a balancing act between the actions of the Israeli government and their self-defence and the actions of Hamas and their terrorists is completely inappropriate.”
At least two Britons were killed in the Hamas onslaught, with another feared dead and more missing. Nathanel Young, 20, was serving in the Israeli army when he was killed in Hamas’s surprise attack. Bernard Cowan, who grew up around Glasgow, also died.
Jack Marlowe, 26, who went to the same London school as Mr Young, is believed to be missing, while photographer Dan Darlington is feared dead. A post from Mr Darlington’s sister Shelley on social media said he was “murdered” at Nir Oz, a kibbutz in southern Israel.
His death has not been officially confirmed. Mr Marlowe was providing security at the Supernova music festival in the desert near Kibbutz Re’im when the area was attacked by Hamas gunmen.