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Sunak to join G7 leaders in urgent talks after Iran attacks Israel

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has offered staunch support for Israel (PA)
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has offered staunch support for Israel (PA)

G7 leaders are to hold urgent talks after Iran launched an unprecedented attack on Israel that saw RAF jets deployed to shoot down drones from Tehran.

Rishi Sunak is expected to join US President Joe Biden on the call on Sunday amid fears of further escalation in the event of a possible Israeli counter-strike.

Tehran has threatened a “heavier” response if Washington co-operates with any further Israeli military action against it.

Israel said Iran launched 170 drones, more than 30 cruise missiles and more than 120 ballistic missiles early on Sunday in an attack that set off air raid sirens across the country.

The assault was launched in response to a strike widely blamed on Israel on an Iranian consular building in Syria earlier this month which killed two Iranian generals.

It marks the first time a direct military assault has been launched by Tehran on Israel despite enmity dating back to the country’s 1979 Islamic Revolution.

Typhoon FGR4 fact file.
(PA Graphics)

The development threatens to become a major regional escalation after years of shadow wars fought between the two foes as the war in Gaza inflames decades-old tensions in the Middle East.

Britain and the US have offered staunch support for Israel, with the Ministry of Defence saying RAF warplanes in Iraq and Syria had been deployed to intercept “any airborne attacks within range of our existing missions”.

Israeli military spokesman rear admiral Daniel Hagari said 99% of more than 300 drones, cruise missiles and ballistic missiles had been shot down outside the country’s borders, with aircraft intercepting more than 10 cruise missiles.

Rescuers said a seven-year-old girl was seriously wounded in southern Israel, apparently in a strike, although they said police were still investigating the circumstances of her injuries.

The UK Prime Minister condemned “in the strongest terms” Iran’s “reckless attack” as he pledged to “continue to stand up for Israel’s security and that of all our regional partners”.

Cabinet minister Victoria Atkins said Britain was now putting “all of our efforts” into de-escalation in the Middle East, saying no-one wanted to see a “miscalculation or an escalation”.

Mr Sunak would join other G7 leaders on a call on Sunday with updates coming throughout the day, she confirmed.

She refused to be drawn on the extent to which RAF planes had been involved in protecting Israel from the Iranian attack, saying she could not provide a running commentary on a “live operation”.

“The Prime Minister held a Cobra meeting on Friday, he was kept updated throughout yesterday and last night and has had calls already this morning, and there is planned to be a G7 leaders call later today,” Ms Atkins told Sky News’ Sunday Morning With Trevor Phillips.

The “circle of knowledge” on developments in the conflict had to be “very, very tight”, she said when asked whether the Cabinet was consulted before RAF planes were authorised to protect Israel.

Mr Biden said he would convene the G7 talks “to co-ordinate a united diplomatic response to Iran’s brazen attack”.

Tehran had been threatening to attack since an air strike, which it blamed on Israel, killed two Iranian generals in Syria on April 1.

Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has spoken to Mr Biden, who said he had “reaffirmed America’s ironclad commitment to the security of Israel”.

Mr Biden said the US had helped Israel to “take down nearly all” of the drones and missiles.

Mr Netanyahu posted on X, formerly Twitter, declaring: “We intercepted. We repelled. Together we will win.”

But Iran has warned Washington against co-operation with Israel in any military operation, with President Ebrahim Raisi saying: “Any new adventure against the interests of the Iranian nation would be met with a heavier and regretful response from the Islamic Republic of Iran.”

How Israel's Iron Dome works.
(PA Graphics)

The state-run IRNA news agency quoted General Mohammad Hossein Bagheri, the chief of staff of the Iranian armed forces, as saying that Tehran had communicated its message to the US through the Swiss embassy, which handles US interest in Iran in the absence of diplomatic relations.

Tehran has largely avoided directly attacking Israel, despite its targeted killings of nuclear scientists and sabotage campaigns on Iran’s atomic sites, instead targeting Israeli or Jewish-linked sites through proxy forces.

But it vowed retaliation for what it said was an Israeli strike on its Damascus consulate on April 1.

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said the party supported all measures “designed to restore calm” and prevent a wider regional war.

The Opposition has backed the action taken by the Government overnight, with shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper telling the BBC’s Sunday With Laura Kuenssberg programme: “We should be clear that if action hadn’t been taken to prevent those strikes, we would have seen further escalation and further risk of widening conflict.”

Conservative backbencher and former Defence Committee chairman Tobias Ellwood said the UK must recognise “we’re now involved in this too”.

“It’s very clear that Britain will stand with Israel to help defend its guys and its soil along with the United States as well,” he told the Telegraph.

UN secretary-general Antonio Guterres, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, French foreign minister Stephane Sejourne and German foreign minister Annalena Baerbock joined a growing chorus of western leaders urging against escalation.

“I urge all parties to exercise maximum restraint to avoid any action that could lead to major military confrontations on multiple fronts in the Middle East,” Mr Guterres wrote in a statement.

“I have repeatedly stressed that neither the region nor the world can afford another war.”