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Prime Minister Says Middle East Conflict Escalation Benefits No One After Israel Strike On Iran

Rishi Sunak walking out of 10 Downing Street(Alamy)

3 min read

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said it was "not in anyone's interest" to see an escalation in the conflict in the Middle East after Israel fired retaliatory strikes against Iran on Friday morning.

Iran launched more than 300 drones and missiles at Israel on Saturday, 99 per cent of which were intercepted, according to the Israeli Defence Force (IDF). 

The UK helped Israel to largely intercept an Iranian attack by hundreds of drones and missiles on Saturday night. G7 leaders, including Sunak, said they were united in condemning the “reckless and dangerous” attack by Iran’s “despotic regime”. 

The UK alongside its Western allies called for Israel to refrain from retaliating against Iran. 

But on Friday morning Israel launched a limited strike against the Iranian regime. Air defences were targeted in several areas, where Iranian state media confirmed that three drones had been hit and shot down. No civilian deaths or casualties have so far been recorded.

Israel's retaliatory strikes took place on the birthday of Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran's supreme leader. Iran has said it does not have immediate plans to hit back and fire rockets at Israel. 

On Friday morning Sunak said he wanted to see "calm heads" prevail across the Middle East and urged caution. 

“It's a developing situation. It wouldn't be right for me to speculate until the facts become clear and we're working to confirm the details together with allies," he said. 

"We have condemned Iran's reckless and dangerous barrage of missiles against Israel on Saturday and Israel absolutely has the right to self-defence.

"But as I said to [Israeli] Prime Minister Netanyahu when I spoke to him last week, and more generally, a significant escalation is not in anyone's interest. What we want to see is calm heads prevail across the region.”

Foreign Secretary David Cameron met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Isaac Herzog earlier this week to persuade the country not to hit back. However, on Wednesday Cameron said it was “clear the Israelis are making a decision to act”. 

Israeli military action in the Middle East still commands broad support in the Tory Party. Mel Stride, the Work and Pensions Secretary, told Times Radio he believed Israel had the "right to defend itself" but said the UK Government was working towards de-escalating tensions.

Tory MP Andrew Percy, vice-chair of Conservative Friends of Israel, told PoliticsHome that while he wanted to avoid a "significant escalation" of conflict in the Middle East, he believed Israel had the "absolute right to strike back against the Iranian terrorist regime's decision to launch over 300 missiles and drones at Israel".

"Iran and their proxies, such as Hamas and Hezbollah, are not just a threat to Israel, they are a threat to all of us in the West. They despise our way of life, our freedoms and our democracy and they cannot be allowed to get away with attacking the democratic state of Israel," he added.

One minister previously told PoliticsHome they believed the bulk of the Conservative Party was in favour of continuing to support Israel and was critical of the foreign office.

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