The Archbishop of Canterbury has condemned the “utterly abhorrent” attacks by Hamas in Israel as he sent his sympathies to British Jews who he said are experiencing the “double jeopardy” of a potential rise in antisemitic sentiment as they mourn.
Justin Welby said such violence against innocent civilians including children and the elderly “strikes at the heart of all that is good and holy”.
In a letter to the chief executive of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, Michael Wegier, Mr Welby said he had felt “intense horror and dismay” at the news in recent days.
He wrote: “I’m aware that you are in Israel at the moment and thought this would be an appropriate moment to write expressing my sympathies and concerns for British Jews, who I know will all have friends and family directly impacted by recent events.
“The attacks by Hamas are utterly abhorrent, and to witness the unfolding of such violence particularly against innocent civilians, children and elderly strikes at the heart of all that is good and holy.
“The Board of Deputies of British Jews represents a full range of Jewish culture, religion, belief and tradition and so I want to convey my deepest sense of solidarity with you at this time.
“I have no doubt that there will be many grieving, fearing for the whereabouts of loved ones and feeling the most profound trauma because of these attacks.
“I’m mindful, too, that British Jews will be feeling the double jeopardy of anticipating an increase in antisemitic sentiment.
“At this extraordinarily difficult time, please be assured of my continued friendship and prayers.”
Ministers have stressed the need to protect the UK’s Jewish community, with Home Secretary Suella Braverman telling police chiefs on Tuesday that waving a Palestinian flag on British streets “may not be legitimate” if it is deemed to be a show of support for acts of terrorism.
Both the UK and the US have been among those offering firm backing to Israel but concerns have been expressed in the UN and elsewhere about the impact on civilians as air strikes continue to hit Gaza.
The Israeli government has stopped the passage of food, water, fuel and medicine into the territory, with the sole remaining access from Egypt shut down on Tuesday after air strikes near the border crossing.
The conflict has already claimed at least 2,100 lives on both sides, with fears it could escalate further.