Hamas wants a 'wider Arab-Israeli war', warns Foreign Secretary as UK makes 'every effort' to protect Britons

15 October 2023, 10:38 | Updated: 15 October 2023, 12:07

The UK is trying to prevent the conflict turning into a wider Arab-Israeli war, said James Cleverly
The UK is trying to prevent the conflict turning into a wider Arab-Israeli war, said James Cleverly. Picture: Getty/Alamy

By Emma Soteriou

Hamas wants a "wider Arab-Israeli war", Foreign Secretary James Cleverly has warned as he insists "every effort" is being made to help British nationals.

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Speaking to LBC, Mr Cleverly said the main priority was preventing a wider conflict and protecting Brits in both Israel and Gaza.

He said the usual assistance the UK would provide is not necessary for Israel as it is "modern and highly capable".

"What we are doing is providing diplomatic support," Mr Cleverly told Andrew Castle.

"We're making it clear that we absolutely respect and support their right to self-defence, we are trying to ensure that what Hamas wants - which is this to turn into a wider Arab-Israeli war or a war between Muslims and others - doesn’t happen.

"I’m speaking regularly with representatives of governments immediately bordering Israel: Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon."

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He continued: "And, of course, we are making every effort to protect British nationals, whether they be in Gaza or Israel, and to facilitate people attempting to leave. Although, with Gaza, that is proving incredibly difficult."

When asked whether he has spoken to representatives in Iran, Mr Cleverly he had not, but repeated: "We will do everything we can to prevent this turning into a wider conflict."

Addressing the number of British nationals in both Israel and Gaza, Mr Cleverly said: "We know in the low hundreds of people have registered with us.

"They may not all want to leave - although many of them will - some of them will regard Gaza as their permanent home just as there are many British dual nationals in Israel who regard Israel as their permanent home.

"They may be serving the Israeli Defence Force, they may be living in other elements of Israeli society and they will not necessarily want to leave."

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Mr Cleverly was one of the first foreign ministers to visit Israel this week to show solidarity.

He was forced to run for cover after rocket alarms went off during his visit to the south of the country.

The official Twitter account for Israel, which is managed by the country's foreign affairs ministry, filmed him running into a building with another man running close to him as others follow.

Ofakim, which has a population over 30,000, was attacked by Hamas terrorists on Saturday and was cleared by security forces on Sunday.

It comes after Rishi Sunak pledged Britain's continued support for Israel amid the conflict with Hamas, and promised to stand with the UK's Jewish community against a backdrop of rising anti-semitic attacks.

The Prime Minister condemned the "evil" attack by Hamas last weekend, and said that the government would protect British Jews from "shameful antisemitism".

London has seen a "massive increase" in anti-semitic incidents since the start of the conflict, according to the police.The assault by Hamas killed around 1,300 Israelis, with over hundred thought to have been taken hostage.

Israel has responded furiously by bombarding Gaza in a bid to wipe out Hamas. Over 2,000 Palestinians have been killed, according to their authorities.