UK foreign secretary James Cleverly runs for cover during air raid alert on Israel visit

The Foreign Secretary is visiting as a show of solidarity

UK Foreign Secretary James Cleverly has had to run for cover amid fears of rocket fire while visiting southern Israel.

In a video posted to social media by the Israeli government, Mr Cleverly is seen being ushered inside a building to safety as air raid sirens went off in Ofakim.

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The foreign secretary is in Israel to “demonstrate unwavering solidarity” with the Israeli people, the UK Government has said, as the number of British citizens missing or killed in the Hamas attacks has risen to 127 – including some children.

He is believed to be the first senior international politician to visit the country since the war began at the weekend – coming two days before a scheduled visit by US secretary of state Antony Blinken.

The Israeli government said in a caption posted alongside the video: “Watch: while UK FM @JamesCleverly visits Ofakim in southern Israel, a siren goes off warning of incoming Hamas rocket fire. This is the reality Israelis live with every day.”

Overall, authorities said the number of people killed in the conflict since the initial assault on Saturday had risen to 1,200 in Israel – and more than 1,000 in Gaza, where Israel has carried out the heaviest bombardment in its long, historic conflict.

Mr Cleverly will meet Israeli leaders, as well as survivors of Saturday’s bloody attacks by Hamas, which targeted Jewish kibbutz communities and a music festival.

The Foreign Secretary was forced to run for coverThe Foreign Secretary was forced to run for cover
The Foreign Secretary was forced to run for cover

This comes as Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and opposition leader Benny Gantz agreed to form an emergency government – akin to the state of emergency currently in operation in Ukraine.

A "war cabinet" will also be set up - including Mr Netanyahu, Mr Gantz and the country's defence minister.

The decision means that during the war period, "no bills or government decisions will be promoted that do not concern the conduct of the war”, while all senior appointments will be automatically extended during the war period, regardless of planned election dates.

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Mr Blinken’s office announced he is due to arrive in Israel on Thursday, as the first plane carrying US weaponry arrived at Israel's Nevatim Airbase. The US is understood to have provided air defence and munitions as president Joe Biden pledged that the US “has Israel’s back”.

Britain's Foreign Secretary, James Cleverly, has arrived in Israel in a show of solidarity against Saturday's attacks.Britain's Foreign Secretary, James Cleverly, has arrived in Israel in a show of solidarity against Saturday's attacks.
Britain's Foreign Secretary, James Cleverly, has arrived in Israel in a show of solidarity against Saturday's attacks.

Israel Defense Forces (IDF) spokesperson Daniel Hagari said the ammunition would "enable significant strikes and preparations for additional scenarios".

Israel's foreign minister, Eli Cohen, shared a picture of a billboard by a road in Israel on X, formerly Twitter, with an image of president Biden and the words “Thank you Mr President”.

Also on Wednesday, King Charles issued a statement, saying he is “appalled by and condemns the barbaric acts of terrorism in Israel”.

“This is a situation His Majesty is extremely concerned about, and he has asked to be kept actively updated,” the statement said. His thoughts and prayers are with all of those suffering, particularly those who have lost loved ones, but also those actively involved as we speak.”

Mr Cleverly’s office said the foreign minister wanted to demonstrate UK support for Israel.

"The foreign secretary has arrived in Israel today to demonstrate the UK's unwavering solidarity with the Israeli people following Hamas’ terrorist attacks," a spokesperson said.

"He will be meeting survivors of the attacks and senior Israeli leaders to outline UK support for Israel’s right to defend itself."

Israel’s foreign ministry welcomed Mr Cleverley’s visit.

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“Foreign Secretary of the United Kingdom, James Cleverly, arrived in Israel today to express solidarity with the Israeli people,” it said. “Thank you Foreign Secretary. We are comforted and strengthened by this moving gesture.”

Mr Cleverly said this morning that a “significant number” of British-Israeli dual nationals have been caught up in the conflict in Israel and Gaza. Reports have claimed 17 British nationals have now died or are missing- including children.

He declined to confirm reports about the numbers affected, telling LBC: “The situation is fast-moving. It is complicated. I’m uncomfortable giving numbers. 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.

“The exact numbers, it’s difficult to say at this time, and I don’t want to give a running commentary, but we will stand ready to support families of those people who are either concerned or have family or loved ones who have been injured in any way.”

UK Defence Secretary Grant Shapps has said in an interview on Wednesday that he believed there is “no equivalence” between the actions of Israel and Hamas.

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.

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He said: “I think that Israel does have that right. It is an ongoing situation.

“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.