Sunak urges restraint after Iranian attack on Israel

Sunak urges restraint after Iranian attack on Israel

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak will urge Israeli counterpart Benjamin Netanyahu to show restraint in response to Iran’s missile and drone barrage amid concerns the Middle East crisis could spiral out of control.

The Royal Air Force joined allies in defending Israel, with British jets shooting down a number of Iranian attack drones.

Mr Netanyahu is considering how to respond to Tehran, with the US and UK urging calm.

In a Commons statement, Mr Sunak said he would be speaking “shortly” to Mr Netanyahu “to express our solidarity with Israel in the face of this attack and to discuss how we can prevent further escalation”.

“All sides must show restraint,” the Prime Minister said.

But with Mr Netanyahu and his war cabinet still considering the response to the attack, it is unlikely that Mr Sunak will be able to speak to the Israeli premier on Monday.

Iran launched about 350 drones and missiles at Israel on Saturday, but the majority were intercepted before they could reach their targets.

The onslaught followed Israel’s targeting of an Iranian diplomatic compound in Syria earlier this month.

Iran has been blamed for supporting Hamas in Gaza and Hezbollah in Lebanon which have targeted Israel, along with the Houthi group in Yemen which has mounted attacks on Red Sea shipping.

Mr Sunak told the Commons: “With this attack Iran has once again shown its true colours. They are intent on sowing chaos in their own back yard, on further destabilising the Middle East.

“Our aim is to support stability and security because it is right for the region and because although the Middle East is thousands of miles away, it has a direct effect on our security and prosperity at home.

“So, we’re working urgently with our allies to de-escalate the situation and prevent further bloodshed. We want to see calmer heads prevail and we’re directing all our diplomatic efforts to that end.”

The Prime Minister indicated that a diplomatic response from the UK and allies in the G7 group of leading democracies would be decided “in the coming days”.

Foreign Secretary Lord Cameron earlier urged Israel to be “smart as well as tough” by not escalating the conflict with Iran.

Israel should recognise Tehran’s attack at the weekend as an “almost total failure” and “think with head as well as heart” in its response, the Foreign Secretary said during a round of broadcast interviews.

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said there was “no doubt” the attack “has left the world a more dangerous place” and said Iran “must be wholly condemned by all”.

He said “a full-scale conflict in the Middle East is in no-one’s interest” and “it is a path that can only lead to more bloodshed, more instability and the unleashing of forces that are beyond the ability of anyone to control”.

Labour Party leader Sir Keir Starmer responding to a statement given to MPs by Prime Minister Rishi Sunak in the House of Commons
Labour Party leader Sir Keir Starmer responding to a statement given to MPs by Prime Minister Rishi Sunak in the House of Commons (UK Parliament/Jessica Taylor)

In a rebuke to Israel, he said: “If diplomacy takes centre stage, and it must, then we also need to be clear diplomatic premises should not be targeted and attacked. That is a point of principle.”

Downing Street said there are “no current plans to publish legal advice” on the UK action, since British forces are operating within existing permissions and defined geographic area of the Operation Shader mission.

Giving pilots permission to intercept any airborne attacks from Iran is a “common-sense measure” to ensure that drones or missiles flying at or past British aircraft could be taken out, the Prime Minister’s spokesman said, while declining to say how many were shot down by the RAF.

The official also rejected Iran’s assertion that it gave advance warning of its strike, saying: “We were not briefed directly by Iran on their attacks.”