Rishi Sunak says he ‘stands with Israel’
Rishi Sunak vowed yesterday to stand with Israel in its “darkest hour” as it faces a long war against the “pure evil” of Hamas.
Side-by-side with his Israeli counterpart Benjamin Netanyahu, the Prime Minister said he wanted the Jewish state to “win” the battle against Palestinian terrorists.
He also met families of hostages taken by Hamas in its murderous October 7 cross-border rampage that killed around 1,400 people. Mr Sunak then left for Saudi Arabia to meet Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
In a joint appearance with Mr Sunak, Mr Netanyahu referenced Britain’s struggle against the Nazis.
He said: “Eighty years ago, Prime Minister, the civilised world stood with you in your darkest hour. This is our darkest hour. It is the world’s darkest hour. We need to stand together and we will win. And this is why I support, I value your support, and the fact that you’re here – we must win together. That means that this is a long war and we’ll need your continuous support.”
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Mr Sunak said he was “proud to stand here with you in Israel’s darkest hour as your friend”.
He added: “We will stand with you in solidarity, we will stand with your people. And we also want you to win.”
Mr Sunak said Hamas represented “pure evil” as he underlined Israel’s right to self-defence. But he warned no one wanted to see the “barbaric act of terrorism” carried out by Hamas lead to an escalation of the violence across the region.
His words came in the face of fears Hezbollah – the Iran-backed Islamist movement with one of the most powerful paramilitary forces in the Middle East – could become more actively involved and spark a wider regional conflict.
Hezbollah and Israel have had low-rumbling tit-for-tat clashes since the war began, putting the entire region on a knife’s edge.
Mr Sunak also had an emotional meeting with people whose loved ones were taken hostage by Hamas.At least two Britons are believed to be among them. He told them it was a “parent’s worst nightmare” and he was “determined” to secure the captives’ release.
However, anti-global poverty charity group Oxfam criticised Mr Sunak’s assertion to Mr Netanyahu that he wants Israel to win its battle against Hamas. A spokesman said: “The humanitarian situation within Gaza is now reaching catastrophic levels. With more than 3,000 Palestinians dead, what further evidence does he need that any precautions to protect civilians are not working?
“Nobody wins when the scale of human suffering, devastation and pain is so vast and relentless.”
During talks last night with Prince Mohammed, Mr Sunak encouraged him to use his regional leadership to “support stability”, No10 said. A spokesman added both agreed on the need to “avoid any further escalation” in the Middle East.
Mr Sunak is hoping to hold further talks with Arab leaders today as he continues his two-day trip to Middle Eastern capitals. Meanwhile, Foreign Secretary James Cleverly met his Egyptian counterpart in Cairo yesterday.
The British diplomacy comes amid Government concern over the BBC’s coverage of the aftermath of the October 7 massacre. The broadcaster faced criticism after a reporter appeared to blame Israel for a disputed missile strike on a Gaza hospital. It has also faced a backlash for refusing to label Hamas as terrorists.
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Culture Secretary Lucy Frazer has held talks with the corporation’s director-general Tim Davie, which a Government source said were “frank, but professional”.
The source said the BBC should understand how Hamas uses the media as a tool in its armoury. Yesterday, House of Commons leader Penny Mordaunt said the BBC needed to “kick the tyres” to ensure it met standards.
She said: “It is critical reporters, sometimes stationed in very stressful environments, need to be reporting facts as facts. Those things that are not facts, have not been verified or are lines to take from terrorist organisations, should not be treated as facts.”
Israel’s president Isaac Herzog accused the BBC of a “distortion of the facts” and told Mr Sunak there should be a “correction” issued.
He added there should be an “outcry” over its decision not to call Hamas a terrorist organisation. Meanwhile, American officials last night said that a US navy warship destroyed three missiles fired from Yemen heading north.
The USS Carney, which is in the Red Sea, intercepted the missiles. It was not clear if they were aimed at Israel – which lies north of Yemen with Saudi Arabia in between. Iranian-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen have expressed support for the Palestinians and threatened Israel.
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