Rishi Sunak has said Israel has an “absolute right to defend itself” after thousands of rockets were fired from the Gaza Strip in a surprise attack by the Hamas militant group.
The prime minister was joined by a number of UK politicians in condemning the attack, which began in the early hours of Saturday.
At least 100 Israelis have been killed in the attacks by Hamas, prompting the country’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, to declare that his country was “at war”.
Palestinian authorities said 198 people have been killed and 1,600 wounded in Gaza after Israeli forces retaliated to the attack.
Writing on X, formerly known as Twitter, Mr Sunak said he was “shocked by this morning’s attacks by Hamas terrorists against Israeli citizens”.
“Israel has an absolute right to defend itself,” he said.
Read more: 98 killed in Gaza as Israel responds to Hamas attack – latest updates
“We’re in contact with Israeli authorities, and British nationals in Israel should follow travel advice.”
His words were echoed by Foreign Secretary James Cleverly, who said the UK the “unequivocally condemns the horrific attacks by Hamas on Israeli civilians”.
He added: “The UK will always support Israel’s right to defend itself.”
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer condemned the attacks and said there was “no justification for this act of terror which is being perpetrated by those who seek to undermine any chance for future peace in the region”.
“Israel has a right to defend herself.”
Sir Keir’s predecessor, Jeremy Corbyn, said called the ongoing conflict “deeply alarming”.
“We need an immediate ceasefire and urgent de-escalation,” he said.
“And we need a route out of this tragic cycle of violence: ending the occupation is the only means of achieving a just and lasting peace.”
In response, security minister Tom Tugendhat made reference to Mr Corbyn’s previous description of Hamas as “friends” – a comment he later said he regretted.
“Your ‘friends’ Hamas are murdering children and taking civilian hostages,” Mr Tugendhat posted.
“Haven’t you said enough?”
Mr Netanyahu said Hamas would “pay a price that it hasn’t known until now” as he ordered up a call of reservists.
Israel has blockaded Gaza since the Islamic militant group gained control of the territory in 2007 and the two have fought wars ever since.
In a televised address, Mr Netanyahu made his first remarks since the Gaza Strip’s Hamas rulers launched a major, multi-front attack on Israel at daybreak on Saturday.
“We are at war,” Mr Netanyahu said. “Not an ‘operation’, not a ’round’, but at war.”
The prime minister also ordered the military to clear the infiltrated towns of Hamas militants that remained locked in gunfights with Israeli soldiers.
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Hamas launched its attacks on Simchat Torah, deploying dozens of soldiers to the country’s heavily fortified border on Saturday.
Retaliating to the incursion, the Israeli air force confirmed dozens of Israel Defense Forces (IDF) fighter jets struck a number of Hamas military compounds and operational command centres in the Gaza Strip.
Palestine’s President Mahmoud Abbas said the Palestinian people had the right to defend themselves against the “terror of settlers and occupation of troops”.
The scale of injuries, combined with the number of fatalities so far, makes the attack the deadliest in Israeli territory in years.
The IDF warned “the Hamas terror group will pay a very heavy price” saying it was launching a “large-scale operation” called “Swords of Iron” in response to the combined rocket and infantry attack.