Britain sends warships to Eastern Mediterranean and will start surveillance flights over Israel amid Hamas war

12 October 2023, 18:05 | Updated: 12 October 2023, 18:57

Two warships have been deployed
Two warships have been deployed. Picture: Alamy

By Will Taylor

Britain is sending a pair of Royal Navy ships to the Eastern Mediterranean and will start surveillance flights over Israel amid its war with Hamas.

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The RFA Argus and RFA Lyme Bay, which are part of the Royal Fleet Auxiliary, will deploy as a "littoral response group".

They will arrive after the USS Gerald R Ford, an aircraft carrier, was sent to the region to deter Hezbollah, the Lebanese militia it's feared could join the fighting and open up a second front against Israel.

Rishi Sunak said the UK deployment will help "prevent further escalation" and said the "horrific scenes" of Hamas's attack must not be repeated.

Read more: Israel 'has a duty' to turn water and electricity supply back on in Gaza, top Tory MP tells LBC

Surveillance aircraft will begin patrols on Friday to track threats in the region, while the Royal Navy ships will be used to mitigate the humanitarian crisis.

The military will be available to "deliver practical support to Israel and partners in the region, and offer deterrence and assurance", No 10 said.

The Lyme Bay has deployed to the Mediterranean
The Lyme Bay has deployed to the Mediterranean. Picture: Alamy

It comes ahead of an expected ground invasion of Gaza, with Israel vowing to end Hamas's ability to harm its citizens as more than 1,000 were killed after gunmen launched a massacre on Saturday.

British politicians have vowed to stand by the country, with James Cleverly visiting the scene of the rampage in the south and even having to run for cover after a rocket alert.

The Argus is a casualty ship which can effectively act as a 100-bed hospital.

Lyme Bay is a landing ship, which can launch and support amphibious troops. The ships are due to arrive next week.

A company of Royal Marines will also deploy, as will a P8 maritime patrol aircraft, "surveillance assets" and three Merlin helicopters.

"We must be unequivocal in making sure the types of horrific scenes we have seen this week will not be repeated," Sunak said.

A ground invasion is anticipated in Gaza
A ground invasion is anticipated in Gaza. Picture: Alamy

"Alongside our allies, the deployment of our world class military will support efforts to ensure regional stability and prevent further escalation.

"Our military and diplomatic teams across the region will also support international partners to re-establish security and ensure humanitarian aid reaches the thousands of innocent victims of this barbaric attack from Hamas terrorists."

Ahead of the expected ground attack, Israel and Hamas are trading air strikes and rocket attacks.

Power has been cut off to the strip, and its sole power plant stopped working, with the UN's World Food Programme warning people there are running out of food and water.

Israel says 1,300 people have died since the attack while it is claimed 1,400 have died in Israel's attacks on Gaza.