Cleverly flies in to show solidarity with Israel – then has to shelter

James Cleverly was forced to run for cover during his visit to Israel yesterday as a Hamas rocket attack sparked panic. The Foreign Secretary took ­shelter as sirens warned of an incoming salvo in the southern city of Ofakim.

After the terrifying ordeal, ­ Mr Cleverly said: “I’ve seen a glimpse of what millions experience every day. The threat of Hamas rockets lingers over every Israeli man, woman and child. This is why we are standing shoulder to shoulder with Israel.”

Mr Cleverly said he flew to Israel in a show of “unflinching British solidarity”, reiterating the UK’s full and unequivocal support for the state to defend itself.

He said British support for its people is “unwavering”.

His visit came as the lights ­went out in Gaza when its only power station was forced to shut down, leaving the enclave without electricity.

Israel cut off fuel supplies as part of its “total blockade”, it was said.

Yesterday it was feared 17 Britons had died in the mass slaughter wreaked by rampaging Hamas terrorists. The bloodshed has now claimed at least 2,200 lives on both sides. Officials said the grim toll, including children, is certain to rise.

Of the Britons killed, four are al

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu

Mr Netanyahu said: “We’ve never seen such savagery in the history of the state nor since the Holocaust. They took dozens of children, bound them up, burned them and executed them. They beheaded ­soldiers, they mowed down youngsters who came to a festival, making sure that they killed everybody. They’re even worse than Isis and we need to treat them as such.”

In a significant escalation yesterday, he convened a “war management cabinet” as part of a unified emergency government with opposition leader Benny Gantz.

It coincided with the first delivery of US “advanced” ammunition, as Secretary of State Antony Blinken also arrived in the country.

Some 1,200 Israelis have died and more than 2,700 have been wounded, according to figures from the Israel Defence Forces.

Gaza’s Health Ministry said at least 1,055 Palestinians have been killed and 5,184 wounded in retaliatory strikes,
with authorities claiming that two-thirds of those injured are women and children.

Occupants of Gaza lost their mains electricity supply because the last operational power station ran out of fuel. Hospitals, schools and bomb shelters were reliant on back-up generators with a dwindling supply of fuel, after Israel cut off supplies.

The Palestinian Health Ministry said it was rationing electric generator capacity to maintain critical services. In a clear sign of the escalating conflict, British Airways last night suspended flights to Israel after one of its planes was forced ­ to turn back on its approach to ­ Tel Aviv.

Flight BA165 abruptly returned to Heathrow “due to security concerns” amid a flurry of incoming Hamas rockets.

Israel is now preparing to mount a “shock and awe” ground offensive in which troops will exact revenge for the worst attack in ­
50 years, one its government described as “Pearl Harbour and 9/11 combined”.

Yesterday, Israel continued to pound the Gaza Strip, where 2.3 million Palestinians live, reducing buildings to rubble and dust. Forces carried out 250 air strikes in just one hour across northern and eastern parts of the enclave.

Image shared by Mr Netanyahu of child’s bed covered in blood

The UK and US have given ­unequivocal backing to Mr Netanyahu in the wake of the atrocities carried out by the raiders.

Israel has vowed vengeance and promised to “wipe out” Hamas after fighters stormed across the border fence on Saturday, gunning down hundreds of Israelis in their homes, on the streets and at an ­outdoor music festival. Since then, militants have continued to fire rockets at Israel, including a heavy barrage at the southern town ­ of Ashkelon yesterday that hit ­a hospital.

Israel has claimed that children were burnt alive, beheaded and shot in the head in a series of ­barbaric slayings.

Minister Nir Barkat said a ­military operation would continue until there was a “clear white ­ ­flag” as yet more distressing reports laid bare the savagery of the ­ Hamas invaders.

He said: “We have heard of 40 young boys, some of them were burnt alive, some were beheaded, some were shot in the head.

“The whole country is united to take Hamas out of this world, to take them out. All the militants, ­ all the infrastructure, the people supporting Hamas. We will wipe them out. We’re coming in to kill the ­militants, and any civilians should move aside.”

Comment by Angela Epstein – Commentator

The history of the Jewish people has been one of persecution, expulsion and flight. It was only after the founding of the state of Israel in 1948 that world Jewry was gifted the reassurance of a country they could call home.

How ironic to find myself in the departure lounge of Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion airport, amongst hundreds of others clamouring for a flight out.

Many were visitors who had been in Israel when Hamas launched its assault. And like me, despite having friends and family in Israel who have to endure the horror, we were leaving to return to our lives.

“You need to go,” warned a friend who lives on Israel’s coastal plain. “There’s nothing for you here while this goes on.”

As we queued at check-in desks, my phone pinged with rumours of a rocket attack on the airport. It took two hours of standing in front of the desk manager and pleading before we secured a flight.

Yet, it still felt, and feels, wrong to have left. Not deserting a sinking ship but acknowledging that a country which has enshrined in its statue the “law of return” – the right for every Jewish person, to immigrate to Israel and automatically become a citizen of the state – is no longer safe.

Hamas is a murderous terrorist organisation. News of its actions – rape, kidnap, the murder of 40 children in one kibbutz, and threats to execute hostages – doesn’t allow any place for political discourse about how this situation came to pass.

These butchering terrorists are the enemy of anyone who values the sanctity of human life. It’s why we must not allow this dark time in Israel’s history to transmute into know-it-all discourse from the liberal elite. This is not a time to ponder – as many do – how it has come to pass.

Imagine if during WW2 energy was diverted away from fighting the Nazis and given to debating how Germany’s defeat in WWI led to the rise of Hitler. Would there have been space to explain away the Holocaust by seeking to understand how the Treaty of Versailles left Germany reeling from the shame of defeat and that the 1919 peace settlement played an important role in the rise of Nazism? No.

As for we returning Brits, I felt terrible to feel a sense of relief as our plane pulled away. But listening to those who justify or mitigate the actions of Hamas feels worse.

To those who do, put down your lattes, book a flight and go see the reality for yourself. I doubt you’ll have to queue at the check in.


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