Sunak announces £3m extra to protect British Jewish community after Hamas attack

The additional funding will pay for increased security at Jewish schools and synagogues following a rise in antisemitic incidents, No 10 said.

Patrick Daly
Thursday 12 October 2023 17:51 BST
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has announced increased funding to keep the British Jewish community safe (Lucy North/PA)
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has announced increased funding to keep the British Jewish community safe (Lucy North/PA) (PA Wire)

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has announced £3 million in extra funding to protect schools, synagogues and other Jewish community buildings in the UK in response to Hamas’ attacks in Israel.

The money will be given to the Community Security Trust (CST) after the group, which acts on the behalf of British Jews on matters of policing and racism, said it had recorded a 400% spike in antisemitic incidents in the UK since the weekend’s assault.

No 10 said the additional money will enable the CST to place additional guards at schools it supports and allow for additional security staff outside synagogues on Friday nights and Saturday mornings when Jews are marking the sabbath.

If anything is standing in the way of keeping the Jewish community safe, we will fix it

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak

Mr Sunak said: “This is now the third deadliest terror attack in the world since 1970.

“The United Kingdom must and will continue to stand in solidarity with Israel.

“At moments like this, when the Jewish people are under attack in their homeland, Jewish people everywhere can feel less safe.

“That is why we must do everything in our power to protect Jewish people everywhere in our country.

“If anything is standing in the way of keeping the Jewish community safe, we will fix it. You have our complete backing.”

It brings the total funding for Jewish community protection security for 2023-24 to £18 million.

The CST said it had recorded 139 antisemitic incidents, including assaults, in the past four days — a 400% increase on the same period in 2022.

The King held a private audience with the Chief Rabbi at Buckingham Palace to personally express his deep care and concern for the Jewish community in the UK who are suffering grief, fear and anguish, the palace said.

Following the meeting, Sir Ephraim Mirvis, who also met with Labour Party leader Sir Keir Starmer on Thursday, said the King’s words offered strength to the Jewish community “at this dark time”.

Mr Sunak convened representatives from UK policing and the Jewish community with ministers at Downing Street on Thursday for discussions on policing protests.

The roundtable, chaired by Home Secretary Suella Braverman, comes ahead of expected protests and marches taking place across the UK this weekend.

No 10 said specific guidance will be provided to police on the beat on where and when to intervene.

It comes after Mrs Braverman wrote to police chiefs this week saying that waving a Palestinian flag and chanting pro-Arab songs could amount to a public order offence if it could be deemed to be in support of terror atrocities.

England’s men’s players will wear black armbands during their friendly football match against Australia on Friday to “remember the innocent victims of the devastating events in Israel and Palestine”.

But the Football Association (FA) has been criticised for its “weak” response by a group representing the British Jewish community.

The FA had faced calls to illuminate the Wembley arch in the colours of the Israeli flag before the game, but has opted for a period of silence instead, with captain Harry Kane and his teammates also wearing armbands.

Israeli or Palestinian flags will not be permitted into the ground, the FA has said.

The Board of Deputies of British Jews criticised the FA statement, pointing out that it made “no mention of the mass terrorist murders of hundreds of innocent Israelis last Saturday”.

With the conflict between Israel and Gaza worsening, the UK Government has organised flights to help British nationals leave Israel.

The first flight was expected to leave the Israeli city of Tel Aviv on Thursday, the Foreign Office said, with further flights planned in the coming days subject to the security situation.

The UK has also sent a rapid deployment team to assist British citizens on the ground.

The Foreign Office, which has said family members of British diplomats are leaving Israel as a “precautionary measure”, has advised against all but essential travel to Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories.

Concerns remain high for the safety of British citizens in the region as the war, ignited by a bloody and wide-ranging Hamas attack on Israel at the weekend, has already claimed at least 2,400 lives.

Three Britons are confirmed dead, with at least 17 UK nationals reported to be either dead or missing, including children.

The Israeli Embassy in the UK has said at least 100 people are believed to have travelled from the UK to Israel to serve in the Israeli military, with reports suggesting a ground offensive into Gaza could be mobilised.

The embassy said it is understood those who travelled are “reservists and active duty soldiers” in the Israel Defence Forces.

International aid groups have warned that deaths in Gaza could accelerate as Israel prevents the passage of food, water, fuel and medicine into the territory and after the region’s only power station ran out of fuel.

The International Committee of the Red Cross said hospitals in Gaza risk turning into morgues when their generators run out.

There have been calls for corridors to be established to allow aid in and civilians out.

Sadiq Khan, the Labour mayor of London, has written to Foreign Secretary James Cleverly pushing for “urgent action” to deliver humanitarian access and support to and from Gaza following similar calls by the United Nations and the World Health Organisation.

The Foreign Office published a video on social media on Thursday of Mr Cleverly speaking during his visit to Israel.

The Cabinet minister said the UK supported Israel’s “right to defend itself” and “right to recover the people who have been kidnapped”.

He made no mention of the situation in Gaza during the 30-second clip.

Hamas has threatened to kill Israeli hostages if Israel targets locations home to Palestinian civilians without warning, with Tel Aviv continuing to carry out retaliatory missile strikes.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has vowed that “every Hamas member is a dead man”.

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