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UK sending navy ships and spy planes to support Israel and prevent ‘further escalation’ | Politics News

The UK will send RAF aircraft and Royal Navy ships to carry out surveillance over Israel in a show of support following the Hamas incursion over the weekend.

RAF aircraft will begin patrols in the next 24 hours while two ships will be sent to the eastern Mediterranean.

A Royal Navy task group will be moved to the eastern Mediterranean next week and will include two ships – RFA Lyme Bay and RFA Argus.

The military package will also see P8 aircraft, surveillance assets, three merlin helicopters and a company of Royal Marines put on standby “to deliver practical support to Israel and partners in the region, and offer deterrence and assurance”.

Israel ‘strikes Syrian airports’; 447 children killed in Gaza – Israel-Gaza latest

P8 Mediterranean Deployment..120 Sqn have deployed from RAF Lossiemouth in a P-8A Poseidon aircraft to the Mediterranean. Image taken 12/10/2023
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The military package will also see P8 aircraft, surveillance assets, three merlin helicopters and a company of Royal Marines put on standby

The prime minister has also asked for all military teams in Israel, Cyprus and those across the region to be bolstered to support contingency planning and the efforts of neighbouring countries to deal with the impact of instability in Israel.

Rishi Sunak said the “deployment of our world-class military will support efforts to ensure regional stability and prevent further escalation”.

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Gaza hospitals ‘risk turning into morgues’

“We must be unequivocal in making sure the types of horrific scenes we have seen this week will not be repeated,” he added.

“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.”

The military support is just the latest provided by the UK in the wake of the surprise attack by Hamas on Saturday.

Analysis: PM has limited options

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To date,1,300 Israelis have died while 1,417 Palestinians, including 447 children, have been killed in retaliatory strikes in Gaza – where electricity, water and fuel has been cut off.

Israel has said it will keep blocking supplies until Hamas releases nearly 100 hostages.

The Foreign Office said flights have been organised to get British nationals out of Israel, with the first plane for “vulnerable” people expected to depart today.

PM has limited options when it comes to demonstrating military power

Deborah Hayes

Deborah Haynes

Security and Defence Editor

@haynesdeborah

A decision by the UK to mobilise spy planes and support ships to the eastern Mediterranean is a solid show of solidarity with Israel – but not a demonstration of potent military strength.

The US deployed a huge aircraft carrier, bristling with fighter jets and flanked by a task group of heavily armed warships in the wake of last weekend’s atrocities by Hamas.

The problem for Rishi Sunak is that a massively reduced Royal Navy and Royal Air Force following decades of cost-saving cuts means his options when it comes to projecting power are pretty limited.

Read the full analysis here

A rapid deployment team is also on its way to assist British citizens on the ground.

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Hundreds of children and women killed’ in Gaza
Gaza ground offensive will be ‘high-risk and very dangerous’ for Israel

At home, the government also announced it would provide an extra £3m in funding to increase the number of guards at Jewish schools following reports that some had been forced to close over fears of the safety of pupils.

One Jewish charity, the Community Security Trust (CST), said it had seen a 324% increase in reports of antisemitism as a result over the last four days, including six assaults, 14 direct threats, three instances of vandalism, and 66 cases of abusive behaviour.

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Mr Sunak is due to speak to northern European leaders about the situation in Israel at the Joint Expeditionary Force summit in Sweden on Friday.

They are expected to discuss the need to work with countries in the Middle East to support stability while also maintaining support for Ukraine from Russian aggression.

PM confronts China’s premier after arrest of parliament ‘spy’ | Politics News

Rishi Sunak has confronted China’s premier about Chinese interference in the UK’s parliamentary democracy.

It comes after two men were arrested under the Official Secrets Act amid reports a parliamentary researcher spied for China.

The researcher, who is in his 20s, is understood to have had links to security minister Tom Tugendhat, foreign affairs committee chairwoman Alicia Kearns and other senior Tory MPs.

Mr Sunak met Chinese premier Li Qiang, who is attending the G20 in place of president Xi Jinping, on the fringes of the summit’s final session on Sunday morning.

Speaking after the meeting, Mr Sunak said he raised his “very strong concern” about interference with parliamentary democracy, which he said was “obviously unacceptable”.

It was the “right approach” to talk face-to-face with China’s premier, he said.

“Where there are areas of disagreement … I’d rather be in the room directly expressing my concerns, and that’s what I did today.”

The arrests were made in March and first revealed by The Sunday Times.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak speaks to the media during the G20 Summit in New Delhi, India. Picture date: Saturday September 9, 2023.

Mr Sunak has been clear China is an “epoch-defining” challenge, Justice Secretary Alex Chalk told Sky News’ Trevor Phillips on Sunday.

He defended security in parliament, saying a “rigorous approach is taken” in terms of who is given a parliamentary pass.

Asked if there are weaknesses in the security system that need addressing, he said: “I don’t think you should rule anything out”.

Officers from the Metropolitan Police’s Counter Terrorism Command, which oversees espionage-related offences, are investigating.

Mr Chalk said the investigation must “play through” and police and security services are taking this “seriously”.

“Whatever lessons need to be learned by the parliamentary authorities I’m sure will be learned,” he said.

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“China is an epoch-defining challenge”

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Asked about the view of some in parliament that China is a threat to the UK, Mr Chalk said “you can’t wish China away”, noting it is second largest global economy and key to tackling the challenge of climate change.

“We have to engage, but we do so with our eyes open,” he said.

Former cabinet minister and diplomat Rory Stewart told Trevor Phillips the UK needs to be “much, much more serious” about protecting itself against Chinese and Russian spies.

“It’s in the interests of authoritarian states to weaken countries like the United Kingdom, so we should be very, very cautious,” he said.

Both the allocation of parliamentary passes and the funding of MPs needed reviewing, he said.

“People with strong links to the Chinese Communist Party have been giving money to Labour MPs and employing former Conservative MPs,” he said.

One of the men, in his 30s, was arrested in Oxfordshire on 13 March, while the other, in his 20s, was arrested in Edinburgh, Scotland Yard said.

“Searches were also carried out at both the residential properties, as well as at a third address in east London,” a statement from the force said.

The MPs he is linked to are privy to classified or highly sensitive information.

Both men were held at a south London police station until being bailed until early October.

Mr Tugendhat is said not to have had any contact with the researcher since before he became security minister in September last year.

Ms Kearns declined to comment, adding: “While I recognise the public interest, we all have a duty to ensure any work of the authorities is not jeopardised.”

The Inter-Parliamentary Alliance on China pressure group said it was “appalled at reports of the infiltration of the UK Parliament by someone allegedly acting on behalf of the People’s Republic of China”.

Alireza Akbari: Iran branded ‘barbaric regime’ over planned execution of man accused of being UK spy | World News

The foreign secretary has condemned the planned execution of a British-Iranian dual national by Iran, calling it “a politically motivated act by a barbaric regime”.

James Cleverly has appealed for the release of Alireza Akbari, a former senior defence official in Iran accused of working for British intelligence.

The Iranian judiciary claimed Mr Akbari, who was deputy defence minister under former president Mohammad Khatami until 2001, was a “key spy” for the British government, the semi-official Tasnim news agency reported.

It said Iranian intelligence unmasked the alleged spy by feeding him false information and described him as “one of the most important infiltrators of the country’s sensitive and strategic centres”.

Mr Cleverly tweeted: “Iran must halt the execution of British-Iranian national Alireza Akbari and immediately release him.

“This is a politically motivated act by a barbaric regime that has total disregard for human life.”

Mr Akbari claims he was tortured and given mind-altering drugs and forced to confess to crimes he did not commit.

His wife Maryam has said she has been asked to attend a “final visit” at the prison where he is being held, suggesting his execution may be imminent, according to BBC Persia.

Commons Foreign Affairs Committee chair Alicia Kearns also condemned the planned execution, accusing the regime in Tehran of reacting because it felt “cornered” as a result of international sanctions and anti-government protests.

“It is another horrifying example of the Iranian regime, because they feel they are cornered, because there is such significant pressure from sanctions, weaponising British nationals and industrialising hostage-taking,” she told the BBC Radio 4 PM programme.

Following the recent executions of anti-government protesters, Ms Kearns said Western countries should respond with fresh sanctions against the regime.

“Every time the Iranian government assassinates an individual involved in the protests, there should be sanctions applied by Western government the next day to make the point that we stand by those protesting for the basic rights of Iranians, otherwise we are showing no meaningful support to them,” she said.

A Foreign Office spokesperson said: “We are supporting the family of Mr Akbari and have repeatedly raised his case with the Iranian authorities.”

“Our priority is securing his immediate release and we have reiterated our request for urgent consular access.”