Significant number of British-Israelis caught up in Hamas attack, says Cleverly

Significant number of British-Israelis caught up in Hamas attack, says Cleverly

A “significant number” of British-Israeli dual nationals have been caught up in the conflict in Israel and Gaza, the Foreign Secretary has said.

James Cleverly said he is “uncomfortable” giving exact numbers about the number of Britons affected by the fighting in the Middle East due to the situation being “fast-moving”.

The Cabinet minister told LBC: “Even from the Israeli government, a lot of the figures about the casualties and fatalities are as yet to be fully confirmed.

“So I don’t really want to speculate but we do know that a significant number of British-Israeli dual nationals have been in some way involved in the terrorist atrocities.”

James Cleverly
Foreign Secretary James Cleverly urged pro-Palestine supporters in the UK not to protest (James Manning/PA)

He said the Government is “standing ready” to support any British citizens who are concerned or whose loved ones have been “injured in any way”.

Ministers are “working with” the aviation industry to ensure commercial flights remain available to Britons looking to leave Israel, he added.

The senior Conservative also urged pro-Palestine supporters in the UK not to protest, saying demonstrations are creating “distress”, and arguing that there is no “equivalence” between Hamas’s attack and Tel Aviv’s response.

Palestinian militant group Hamas – which is banned as a terrorist group by the UK Government – sent fighters across the border to Israel and fired thousands of rockets in an unprecedented attack on Saturday, which also saw a music festival targeted.

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.

Since the weekend’s atrocities, Israel has sealed the Gaza Strip off from food, fuel, medicine and other supplies, while launching retaliatory air strikes on the Hamas-ruled territory, which is home to 2.3 million people.

Hamas has pledged to kill captured Israeli hostages if attacks target civilians in Gaza without warnings.

The conflict has sparked reaction in communities in Britain, with police separating pro-Israel and pro-Palestinian groups at High Street Kensington Underground station in west London on Monday.

Outside the Israeli embassy in Kensington, hundreds of pro-Palestinian protesters gathered to demonstrate, letting off fireworks, lighting flares and chanting “Israel is a terrorist state”, “Free Palestine” and “Allahu akbar”.

The Foreign Secretary said he would encourage Palestine supporters to “pause” before joining further protests.

He told Sky News: “There is no need, there is no necessity for people to come out. It causes distress.

“This is a difficult, delicate situation.”

He said the protests are causing concern in the Jewish community, “who have often been on the receiving end of prejudice and threats of violence”.

Pat McFadden, Labour’s national campaign co-ordinator, declined to tell people not to protest in support of the Palestinian people, but made clear that his party stands with Israel’s “right to defend itself”.

Palestine Solidarity Campaign demonstration – London
Protesters at a Palestine Solidarity Campaign demonstration near the Israeli Embassy (Jordan Pettitt/PA)

It comes after Prime Minister Rishi Sunak visited a synagogue in north London to express his solidarity for Israel and to reassure Britain’s Jews.

Mr Sunak told the United Synagogue in Finchley on Monday evening: “There are not two sides to these events.

“There is no question of balance. I stand with Israel.”

Mr Cleverly echoed the Prime Minister’s stance, saying it is “inappropriate” to attempt to compare the acts of Israel’s military to 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,” he 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.

“I wouldn’t want to do anything which would imply that to be the case. Of course, we want to see the minimisation of loss of life.”

At least two Britons have been 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 the surprise attack by the group, which began on Saturday.

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 had been “murdered” at Nir Oz, a kibbutz in southern Israel. However, his death has not been officially confirmed.

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

Noa Beer, 29, was at the Supernova music festival in Kibbutz Re’im when 260 attendees were killed by Hamas.

She told The Sun that she fled the festival in her Jeep with three injured strangers and a DJ.

Israel-Hamas conflict
Around 30 British nationals on a church visit to Israel say they can hear bombs from their hotel in Jerusalem (Father Nenad Popovic/PA)

Gunmen opened fire on the vehicle, she said, forcing her to drive through them.

“There was one looking me dead in the eyes and lifting the gun to shoot us,” she said.

“I started driving towards him. I put my foot down and drove fast. He shot at us from maybe only two metres away and barely missed the window.”

Around 30 British tourists on a church visit to the Holy Land are stuck in Jerusalem as they await a flight out of the country.

Father Nenad Popovic, from the Serbian Orthodox Church of the Holy Prince Lazar in Birmingham, told the PA news agency: “We can hear horns here and a lot of detonations, bombs sometimes.”

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.