Seventeen British nationals, including children, dead or missing after Hamas attacks in Israel

Hundreds of thousands of troops have massed on the border

As many as 17 British nationals – including children – are now believed to have died as a result of Hamas attacks on Israel at the weekend.

Reports have claimed that the number of UK citizens who have died or are missing has risen to 17 from a previous estimate of around 10.

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This comes as Israel looks to be preparing for a ground assault on Gaza, after 300,000 reservist troops gathered at the border following another night of heavy air strikes.

The Israel Defence Forces said it had hit 450 targets in Gaza in the past 24 hours, while the effects of a siege on the territory began to bite.

The IDF warned scenes in Gaza "will be more difficult to understand and cope with" in the coming days.

Gaza's power plant - the only source of electricity since Israel blocked any food, aid or power from entering Gaza over its borders - will run out of fuel in 10 to 12 hours, the head of the Palestinian Energy Authority, Thafer Melhem, has said.

IDF spokesman Jonathan Conricus said the reservist troops, as well as infantry, armoured soldiers and artillery corps, are "close to the Gaza Strip getting ready to execute the mission that we have been given by the Israeli government - and that is to make sure that Hamas at the end of this war won't have any military capabilities by which they can threaten or kill Israeli civilians"

He also pointed to atrocities uncovered by troops following last Saturday’s attack by Hamas.

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International media were yesterday allowed access to some kibbutz targeted by militants, including Kibbutz Kfar Aza, which he said was "something out of a scene of an apocalyptic movie, or something related to zombies".

Hamas continued to fire rockets into Israel, targeted the city of Ashkeron, where citizens were told by the Palestinian militants to evacuate ahead of a late afternoon assault yesterday.

Rockets have also been fired from Syria into Israel, as well as from Lebanon by Hezbollah.

The IDF has claimed it has hit a site used to detect aircraft over the Gaza Strip, as well as 80 sites in Beit Hanoun in Gaza, "including two bank branches used by Hamas to fund terrorism in the Gaza, an underground tunnel and two operational command centres used by Hamas to direct terrorist activities against Israel".

UK Defence Secretary Grant Shapps has said there is “no equivalence” between the actions of Israel and Hamas.

Speaking to Sky News, he said: “We know in war there can be damage beyond the…in this case the terrorists. But that is not (Israel’s) objective, which is why I say there is no equivalence between the two.”

Meanwhile, Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer has argued that Israel does have the right to besiege Gaza in response to Hamas’s attacks.

The Labour leader told LBC radio: “I think that Israel does have that right. It is an ongoing situation.

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“Obviously everything should be done within international law, but I don’t want to step away from the core principles that Israel has a right to defend herself and Hamas bears responsibility for the terrorist acts.”

Sir Keir’s wife Victoria is Jewish, and he said they have family in Israel who are being affected by the events.

“We have extended family in Israel and this will be typical of many people in Israel, families, communities, they have a deep sense of shock at what is happening,” he said.

“Fear overladen with a real anxiety that somehow they felt that with the Israeli intelligence and security – they always know they are under threat – but they felt there was a protection there and there’s huge anxiety that on this occasion that didn’t seem to operate in the way that they wanted.”

However, shadow foreign secretary David Lammy said there must be humanitarian access to Gaza as he maintained support for a two-state solution between Israel and Palestine.

“I agree with President Macron when he said we must not confuse the fight against terrorism with the most elementary humanitarian support for civilian populations,” Mr Lammy said.

“There needs to be humanitarian access and supplies to Gaza. We must distinguish between Hamas and the Palestinian people because failure to do so would only embolden the terrorists and punish the wrong people.

“There will not be a just and lasting peace until Israel is secure, Palestine is a sovereign state and both Israelis and Palestinians enjoy security, dignity and human rights.”



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