Israel conflict: At least six Britons killed in Hamas 'pogrom' in Israel, Rishi Sunak says

The Prime Minister confirmed the deaths and defended Israel’s right to defend itself.

At least six Britons were killed in Hamas’s “pogrom” in Israel and a further ten are missing, Rishi Sunak has told MPs, as he backed Israel’s right to “defend itself” in targeting Hamas.

Making a Commons statement on Monday, the Prime Minister announced the UK was increasing aid to the Palestinian people by a third with an extra £10 million, stressing Palestinians are “victims of Hamas too”.

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Mr Sunak also called for the immediate release of the around 200 hostages taken by the militant group. He delivered the speech as European Union leaders prepare to hold an emergency summit on Tuesday as concern mounts the war between Israel and Hamas could fuel inter-communal tensions in Europe and bring more refugees in search of sanctuary.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak speaking in the House of Commons about the Hamas attack.Prime Minister Rishi Sunak speaking in the House of Commons about the Hamas attack.
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak speaking in the House of Commons about the Hamas attack.

With the families of some of the missing watching from inside Parliament, Mr Sunak recounted that more than 1,400 people were murdered, more than 3,500 wounded and almost 200 taken hostage in Hamas’s attack.

He said: “The elderly, men, women, children, babes in arms, murdered, mutilated, burned alive. We should call it by its name – it was a pogrom.”

Mr Sunak said the “terrible nature of these attacks means it is proving difficult to identify many of the deceased”, but at least six Britons were killed.

Of the further ten missing, he said some were feared to be among the dead as the UK works with Israel to establish the facts and support the families through their “unimaginable pain”. The Prime Minister said eight flights so far had brought back 500 British nationals from Israel, with more leaving in the coming hours.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak earlier addressed an assembly during a visit to a Jewish school in north London.Prime Minister Rishi Sunak earlier addressed an assembly during a visit to a Jewish school in north London.
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak earlier addressed an assembly during a visit to a Jewish school in north London.

Addressing the British Jewish community, Mr Sunak said: “We stand with you now and always. This atrocity was an existential strike at the very idea of Israel as a safe homeland for the Jewish people.”

The Prime Minister said he was “sickened” that anti-Semitic attacks have increased since the wave of bloodshed in Israel, as he vowed to do “everything we can to protect you”.

But he said “we stand with British Muslim communities too” as he noted the “moment of great anguish” for those appalled by Hamas’s actions while being fearful of the response.

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He continued: “We must listen to these concerns with the same attentiveness. Hamas is using innocent Palestinian people as human shields. We mourn the loss of every innocent life, civilians of every faith, every nationality who have been killed.

“And so let’s say it plainly: we stand with British Muslim communities too.”

Mr Sunak announced a further £10m in humanitarian aid would be provided to civilians in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, up from the £27m in existing funding this year. He said the UK would continue to press Israel to “take every possible precaution to avoid harming civilians”, with more than 2,750 Palestinians reported to have been killed and 9,700 wounded since the fighting erupted.

More than 1,400 Israelis have died, the vast majority civilians killed in the October 7 assault, while the country’s military said at least 199 hostages had been taken to Gaza.

Labour leader Keir Starmer said civilians “must not be targeted” and “innocent lives must be protected”.

He told the Commons: “Israel’s defence must be conducted in accordance with international law. Civilians must not be targeted, innocent lives must be protected. There must be humanitarian corridors, there must be humanitarian access, including food, water, electricity, and medicines, so that hospitals can keep people alive and so that innocent people do not needlessly die.

“And there must be proper protection for all those who work selflessly, so aid can be delivered to victims. There can be no doubt the responsibility for this crisis lies with Hamas. They have no interest in Palestinian rights, no interest in the security of the people of Gaza, they unleash terror.

“They are destroyers of lives, of hope, of peace, and we cannot give them what they want. We must keep striving for a two-state solution. A Palestinian state alongside a safe and secure Israel.”

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The SNP warned ministers that history will “judge” the UK on its response to the crisis in the Middle East.

The party’s Westminster leader Stephen Flynn said: “Rabbie Burns once poignantly wrote that man’s inhumanity to man makes countless thousands mourn. It is with those words echoing in all of our hearts that we send our thoughts and our prayers to all of those suffering in the Middle East.

“The abhorrent terrorist attack by Hamas on the Jewish people in the Israeli state was a crime against our common humanity and it must be condemned unequivocally. What more powerful response can we have than to seek to protect the shared innocence and the shared humanity of both Israeli and Palestinian civilians?”

He listed examples such as defeating Hamas, the safe return of Israeli hostages, opening humanitarian corridors to Gaza, and “no collective punishment” as part of this response.

Mr Flynn added: “In order to make all that happen, it will require international leadership and international diplomacy. On these isles that responsibility will fall to the UK Prime Minister.

“I very much wish him well in making that happen, and right across this chamber we all need to be very conscious that history will judge us on our response, not just to these abhorrent attacks, but to the humanitarian crisis which is undoubtedly unfolding in Gaza. Let us not be on the wrong side of history.”

Labour MP Richard Burgon told the Commons that Palestinians were being subject to “collective punishment”, which he described as a war crime.

The MP for Leeds East told the Commons: “The massacre of Israeli citizens was a heinous act of terrorism, which we all utterly condemn, and the hostages must be released immediately.

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“In the words of the United Nations general secretary, ‘the horrific acts by Hamas do not justify responding with collective punishment of the Palestinian people’. But that is what we’re seeing in Gaza – civilian areas bombed, food, electricity, water, medicines, all cut off. Such collective punishment is a war crime under the Geneva Conventions.

“So will the Prime Minister take this opportunity to make clear to the Israeli government that this collective punishment of Palestinian civilians must end immediately?”

Other MPs could be heard appearing to condemn Mr Burgon’s remarks, saying “shame” and “disgraceful”.

Earlier in the day, Mr Sunak expressed his condolences for the deaths of civilians in a call with President of the Palestinian Authority Mahmoud Abbas and discussed providing humanitarian aid to Gaza and measures to protect civilians.

He also held a call with Turkey’s president Recep Tayyip Erdogan to discuss the need to send aid to Gaza.

British officials have been pressing for Egypt to open the Rafah crossing with Gaza to allow Britons, dual nationals, as well as their spouses and children, to flee and to allow humanitarian aid into its more than two million people.

However, expectations in Government for opening the crossing were understood to be very low on Monday.



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