Sunak urges Netanyahu to keep ‘calm heads’ in Israeli response to Iran attack

Saturday's attack saw Iran launch around 350 drones and missiles against Israel, with the latter saying on Monday that the barrage 'will be met with a response', ITV News Correspondent John Irvine explains

  • Israel's military said it intercepted 99% of the more than 300 Iranian drones and missiles that were launched at it over the weekend

  • Iran said it was responding to an attack - which it has blamed Israel for - against its consulate in Syria earlier this month

  • A small number of hits had been identified at a military base in southern Israel, causing only minor damage to infrastructure, while the Israel Defence Forces (IDF) said a seven-year-old girl has been severely injured by shrapnel from an interceptor missile

Rishi Sunak has told Benjamin Netanyahu it is “a moment for calm heads to prevail” in Israel’s response to Iran’s missile and drone attack.

The prime minister spoke to his counterpart on Tuesday afternoon after first telling MPs 24 hours earlier that he would speak to Mr Netanyahu “shortly”.

Israeli media had reported that Mr Netanyahu was refusing to take calls from world leaders seeking to influence the response to Saturday night’s attack.

After the call, a Downing Street spokesperson said Mr Sunak “reiterated the UK’s steadfast support for Israel’s security and for wider regional stability”.

“Prime Minister Netanyahu thanked the UK for its rapid and robust support in the face of Iran’s reckless and dangerous attack on Saturday,” they added.

“The prime minister said Iran had badly miscalculated and was increasingly isolated on the global stage, with the G7 co-ordinating a diplomatic response. He stressed that significant escalation was in no one’s interest and would only deepen insecurity in the Middle East. This was a moment for calm heads to prevail.”

Foreign Secretary Lord David Cameron is also expected to visit Israel soon, and on Monday urged Tel Aviv to be "smart as well as tough" by not escalating the conflict with Iran.

It comes as Israeli Foreign Minister Israel Katz said he sent letters to 32 countries and has spoken to "dozens of foreign ministers and leading figures" calling for sanctions to be imposed on the Iranian missile project.

He also asked those nations, which appear to include the UK, US, Germany, France and Japan based on the ministers tagged in the social media post, to declare the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps a "terrorist organisation" as a "way to curb and weaken Iran".

Israel said on Monday it would respond to Iran's attack, despite world leaders urging them not to retaliate.

Ministers from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's war cabinet have agreed to "clearly and forcefully" strike back, but hope to "avoid casualties," ITV News understands.

It is unclear when this response will happen but it has conclude the fifth set of talks since the weekend on Tuesday.

Lieutenant General Herzi Halevi said Israel is still considering its steps, but confirmed the Iranian strike "will be met with a response

Lieutenant General Halevi spoke during a visit to the Nevatim air base, which Israel says was damaged in the Iranian attack, but is still "functional around the clock."

Lieutenant General Herzi Halevi. Credit: IDF

Israel Defence Forces (IDF) spokesperson Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari also said his country "shall do whatever is needed in order to protect state of Israel... at a time and date we choose" during a press conference on Monday.

He said four members of the IDF were injured, including one who was taken to hospital after Iran launched 170 drones, more than 30 cruise missiles and at least 120 ballistic missiles in an assault which set off air raid sirens across Israel on Saturday night.

Meanwhile, the IDF is continuing its assault in Lebanon and Gaza with the military confirming it killed a Hezbollah commander on Tuesday.

"Earlier today, an IAF (Israeli Air Force) aircraft struck and eliminated Ismail Yusaf Baz, the commander of Hezbollah’s coastal sector," the IDF confirmed in a statement.

It added that "Ismail served as a senior and veteran official in several positions of Hezbollah's military wing. His current rank is equivalent to a brigade commander."

The Lebanese militant group Hezbollah confirmed in a statement that Ismail had been killed in southern Lebanon.

In Gaza, Israeli attacks have killed at least 46 Palestinians over the past 24 hours, the Ministry of Health there reported, raising the total death toll to 33,843 people.

During the call with Netanyahu, Sunak also said “he remained gravely concerned about the deepening humanitarian crisis” in Gaza.

“The UK wanted to see a massive step change in aid access to flood Gaza with vital supplies, including Israel opening up new aid routes as quickly as possible,” the spokesperson said.

“The prime minister said it was deeply disappointing that Hamas blocked a deal at the weekend that would have saved Palestinian lives and secured the safe release of hostages.”

The Royal Air Force (RAF) joined allies in defending Israel, with British jets shooting down a number of Iranian attack drones on Saturday night.

Rishi Sunak says 'Iran has shown its true colours' by attacking Israel

Israel said it had intercepted "99%" of what Iran had launched against it, with the attack deemed over by Sunday morning.

The United States and Britain have confirmed they helped intercept some of the more than 300 drones and missiles launched by Iran.

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

An Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesperson reiterated Iran's stance on Monday that it's attack was "legitimate" and "responsible", adding that "military action was the last resource which exhausted all the diplomatic channels".

But Downing Street later rejected Iran's assertion it gave advance warning of its drone and missile attack on Israel, as the prime minister's official spokesman revealed they were not briefed directly by Iran on their attacks.

'Israel has a right to respond, but we are urging them that we respond with head as well as heart, that we're smart as well as tough,' Lord Cameron told ITV News

Asked if he had a message for Britons concerned that the UK could be dragged into a wider conflict in the Middle East, Lord Cameron said the government is working in "our national interest."

Speaking to ITV News, he added: "The role that we played, a limited role but an important role, in helping to stop the escalation was in Britain’s national interest."

World leaders urged restraint from all sides at an emergency meeting of the United Nations (UN) Security Council on Sunday.

United States national security spokesman John Kirby told NBC that US President Joe Biden does not want an escalation in the regional conflict or a "wider war" with Iran, and is "working on the diplomatic side of this personally".

Mr Biden hosted Iraq’s leader at the White House as his administration worked to prevent an escalation in Mideast hostilities, on Monday.

Speaking after the IDF's announcement, Mr Kirby declined to say whether the U.S. had been or expects to be briefed on Israeli plans.

“We will let the Israelis speak to that,” he told reporters Monday.

The US has ruled out being party to a direct strike on Iran.

Israel's Iron Dome responding to an Iranian drone and missile attack over the weekend. Credit: CNN

Jordan, France, China, Germany and Nigeria, meanwhile, were among the countries warning against any further escalations in the crisis on Monday.

"Now is the time to defuse and de-escalate," UN secretary general António Guterres said. "Now is the time for maximum restraint."

G7 leaders - the informal gathering of industrialised countries which includes the United States, United Kingdom and France - issued a statement on Sunday "unequivocally condemning in the strongest terms Iran’s direct and unprecedented attack against Israel", after the leaders met in a video conference hosted by the Italian presidency.

Want a quick and expert briefing on the biggest news stories? Listen to our latest podcasts to find out What You Need To Know...