United Kingdom Prime Minister Rishi Sunak visited Israel on Thursday, when he held diplomatic talks with Israeli President Isaac Herzog and condemned Hamas, a terrorist group that governs Gaza, for their ruthless assault on Oct. 7, when they slaughtered more than 1,400 Israelis in a single day.
Sunak’s visit came on the 13th day of Israel’s war with Hamas, and he minced no words in describing the terror group.
‘First and foremost, I want to express my solidarity with you and your country after you have suffered something unspeakable, a barbaric act of terrorism, as you said, we should call it what it is: an act of terrorism perpetrated by an evil terrorist organization, Hamas.’
‘We will stand with Israel, we will stand with you in solidarity with your people and your right to defend yourself, to bring security back to your country, to your people, to ensure the safe return of the hostages that have been taken,’ Sunak said. ‘Because that’s the right thing to do. You have not just a right to do that, I think you have a duty to do that, to restore that security to your country. But I’m also grateful to you for the support that the Israeli government has provided to the families and British nationals who have been caught up in this tragedy.’
The unequivocal moral distinction comes as some U.S. lawmakers, including Rep. Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich., repeated a debunked claim that Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) were responsible for an explosion that struck a Gaza hospital, reportedly killing hundreds of civilians. On Wednesday, Tlaib also accused the Biden administration of funding a ‘genocide’ against Palestinians.
Sunak said the U.K. supported Israel’s right to defend itself against the Hamas terrorists and urged the swift return of Israeli hostages.
He added, ‘I very much appreciate that and I know we will continue to cooperate closely and support your efforts to ensure the safe return of all the hostages.’
The U.K. prime minister also expressed a need for humanitarian assistance to civilians in Gaza.
‘I’m glad that you and I have had a chance to discuss the need for humanitarian access. Palestinians are victims of what Hamas has done,’ he continued. ‘And it’s important that we continue to provide humanitarian access. I welcomed the announcement yesterday – the U.K. has announced further aid that we’re prepared to bring into the region.’
‘And we’re keen to see that that gets to those who need it. I very much welcome the progress that we’ve made on that. The relationship between our two countries has always been strong. But I want you to know at this particular moment, you don’t just have our friendship, you have all solidarity with you,’ he concluded.
President Herzog also spoke Thursday, saying he was ‘extremely grateful’ for Sunak’s visit.
‘You’ve come to visit Israel in our darkest hour, but we will overcome and prevail and it will be our finest hour. Mr. Prime Minister, you will see here in Israel the way our nation has risen following the horrendous attack, following the shock and the trauma, with enormous pain that we are carrying with us on an hourly basis,’ he said. ‘Every hour another story, another story and another story of shocking stories, shocking – people being burned and tied up in barbed wire, you can only think about a family just before they are totally murdered, and heads cut off, all the things that you’ve been hearing.’
Herzog also said Israel was facing ‘a test,’ and went on to say, ‘We are seeing ISIS on our border, entering into our country. And it’s an empire of evil, which we know is led from Tehran. It’s a coalition of evil led from Tehran, which has its forks in Lebanon, which has left havoc in Syria, Yemen, and Iraq. This is the real international interest, the security interest of all the nations of Europe, and this is how we feel and see this moment.’
The visit comes a day after President Biden landed in Tel Aviv, where he met with Herzog, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and other Israeli officials.