Rishi Sunak urges Israel to show restraint after Iranian attack

<span>Sunak said he would ‘shortly be speaking’ to Benjamin Netanyahu, although sources said such a call was unlikely to happen on Monday.</span><span>Photograph: PRU/AFP/Getty Images</span>
Sunak said he would ‘shortly be speaking’ to Benjamin Netanyahu, although sources said such a call was unlikely to happen on Monday.Photograph: PRU/AFP/Getty Images

Rishi Sunak has echoed calls by fellow world leaders for Israel to show restraint in its response to the weekend’s attack by Iran, as the international community seeks to prevent a full-scale regional conflict.

Updating the House of Commons for the first time since the weekend’s largely unsuccessful attack involving more than 300 drones and missiles, the prime minister told MPs he was urgently working with allies to try to prevent any escalation.

His statement followed similar calls by the US president, Joe Biden, and the French president, Emmanuel Macron, and came as Israeli ministers concluded a cabinet meeting to discuss retaliatory options, reportedly without agreement.

Sunak said he would plead directly for calm in a call with Benjamin Netanyahu, although sources said such a call was unlikely to happen on Monday.

The prime minister told MPs: “I will shortly be speaking to Prime Minister Netanyahu to express our solidarity with Israel in the face of this attack, and to discuss how we can prevent further escalation. All sides must show restraint. We will continue together with our allies to urge calm heads to prevail and de-escalation.”

Iran’s bombardment came a little under a fortnight after Israel attacked the Iranian diplomatic mission in Damascus. Sunak refused to criticise the Israelis for that original action, laying the blame solely at the door of Tehran instead.

“On Saturday evening, Iran sought to plunge the Middle East into a new crisis,” he said. “The scale of the attack and the fact that it was targeted directly at Israel are all without precedent.”

British jets took part in the Israeli defence on Saturday night, with RAF jets shooting down an unspecified number of Iranian drones. Sunak would not give full details of the British military engagement but said the planes had provided “important intelligence surveillance and reconnaissance support for our partners”.

Sunak said he was working with G7 partners on further sanctions against Tehran, as he came under pressure to proscribe the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and to reimpose previous sanctions that were suspended under the Iran nuclear deal.

Related: Sunak faces new calls to proscribe Iran’s Revolutionary Guards after Israel attack

“Yesterday at the G7 we agreed to work together on further measures to counter the Iranian regime and its properties,” he said. “It was agreed that we should coordinate those actions and that work is now under way.”

Keir Starmer backed Sunak’s calls for restraint, although he was more critical of the original Israeli attack on the Iranian consulate. “Diplomatic premises should not be targeted and attacked,” the Labour leader said. “That is a point of principle.”

Sunak’s call for calm echoed one made hours earlier by David Cameron. The foreign secretary told the BBC on Monday morning: “We are saying Israel has a right to respond but we do not support a retaliatory strike. There are times where we have to be smart as well as tough, where we have to use head as well as heart.”

Pressed on LBC on the wisdom of the Israeli embassy attack, Lord Cameron said: “It is a matter for Israel. We have not made a comment on it. Can I understand Israel’s frustration with Iran? Yes. Absolutely I can. I am not getting into what Israel has or has not done.”

He said: “Iran is responsible for Hamas in Gaza, they are responsible for what is happening in Yemen, they are responsible for Hezbollah in Lebanon.”