Israel urges Britain: Stand with us against ‘evil terror’ of Hamas

Adam Forrest & Andy Gregory 

The Independent  /  October 9, 2023

Ambassador Tzipi Hotovely makes impassioned plea in The Independent as she says ‘nightmares have become reality’ with violence gripping Israel and Gaza. 

The Israeli ambassador to the UK has called on Britain to stand with Israel against the “evil brutality” of Hamas, as the death toll from the weekend’s eruption of violence rose to more than 1,000.

Writing a highly personal plea from central Israel for The Independent, ambassador Tzipi Hotovely described the fear of her three-year-old daughter as the family hid in their bomb shelter, saying that her own “nightmares have become reality”.

Israel and Gaza spent the day reeling from the aftermath of Hamas’s strike on Saturday, with the number of dead continuing to rise and retaliatory strikes causing devastation.

Writing about the shock attacks, the top diplomat urged the British people: “I ask you not to simply keep scrolling through your news feeds, but to amplify the voices of countless innocent Israelis by sharing their story.

“Help to expose the truly hateful and barbaric face of Hamas, and show to the people of Israel that you stand with us and our right to defend ourselves from evil brutality.”

Her plea came as:

  • The Israeli death toll passed 700, with over 400 dead in Gaza from retaliatory strikes
  • Israel said Hamas had taken 100 people hostage – including women, children, and a Holocaust survivor
  • One British man was confirmed dead and another missing, assumed kidnapped and taken to Gaza
  • More than 260 killed at Israeli desert rave – as survivors told The Independent how they hid in fear
  • Poland said it was evacuating its citizens from Israel, while the US pledged new assistance for its ally

Hotovely’s plea for British support came on a second devastating day of violence, in which fierce gun battles took place across southern Israel, with the country suffering its bloodiest days in decades.

Israeli media reported that at least 700 Israelis had been killed since Hamas launched its shock attack on Saturday morning, with another 2,048 wounded. Retaliatory air strikes launched on Gaza have killed at least 400 people and wounded another 2,200, according to Palestinian officials.

Among those in the immediate path of the militants were thousands of revelers at a trance music festival in the desert, which was interrupted on Saturday by rockets flying – before militants stormed the event and opened fire with assault rifles and grenades – on Sunday night, emergency services said more than 260 died in the attack.

Eyewitnesses and friends told The Independent that the militants had fatally shot and kidnapped dozens of people, and that they had hunted down partygoers as they tried to hide in a wooded area nearby.

One woman said she had survived by playing dead in a car after the driver trying to help her escape was shot, while another told the BBC that she had hidden under a tree for three hours while gunmen roamed the area shooting all in their sight.

Harrowing footage showed a 25-year-old woman, Noa Argamani, being driven away on a Palestinian gunman’s motorcycle as she pleaded “Don’t kill me.” Her boyfriend, who was seen in the footage being dragged away, is also believed to have been taken hostage, his brother told Israel’s Channel 12 news.

The Israeli ambassador wrote in The Independent that the attacks would “live on in the collective Israeli psyche for generations to come”, warning that the number of innocent people “massacred” by Hamas would rise in the days ahead.

Hotovely said the sight of Israelis being taken hostage and “dragged back across the border” into Gaza was “something I have never witnessed before in my lifetime”.

She added: “As an Israeli, and as a mother, my nightmares have become reality. Whilst we sought safety in our shelter, my three-year-old daughter asked me yesterday, “Why, Mum? Why do they want to kill me?”

Hotovely also pointed the finger at Iran for funding Hamas, saying that the two were “aligned in their support for terror, for destroying our democratic values, and for extinguishing us from existence”.

A 20-year-old British man serving in the Israeli army was killed in an attack by Hamas, his family confirmed. Nathanel Young was serving with the Israeli Defense Forces when he was killed on the Gaza border on Saturday. Young’s brother, Eliot Young, said in a statement released to the BBC that Nathanel was “loved by everyone”.

Another British citizen, photographer Dan Darlington, was reported missing by his family. It comes after 26-year-old Jake Marlowe, who went to the same London school as Young, was reported missing while providing security at a music festival near Kibbutz Re’im, close to the Gaza border.

The Israeli embassy in London confirmed that London-born Marlowe, who is reported to have moved to Israel two years ago, was missing – but it had not been confirmed that he had been kidnapped.

In a voice note – a transcript of which has been seen by The Independent – sent by Mr Marlowe to a friend, the 26-year-old said: “We are seeing it in front of our eyes. We are rounding up the people from the party now. We are on an ATV [quad bike] and we are telling everyone to get the f*** outta there.”

Israeli troops also traded rocket and artillery fire with Hezbollah in Lebanon, raising fears of a broader conflict. Prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s security cabinet officially declared the country at war on Sunday, saying that it had formally authorized the taking of “significant military steps”.

Israel said it had struck 800 Hamas targets, and cut off power and other supplies to the besieged enclave on Sunday – doing little to disperse fears of a looming ground offensive.

Netanyahu had first vowed to “go through every community until we kill every terrorist that is in Israeli territory” as he ordered the evacuation of regions near the border – where Israeli troops were seeking to dislodge Hamas fighters from eight separate locations.

Rishi Sunak also spoke to Netanyahu on Sunday afternoon, reaffirming that the UK stands with Israel “unequivocally against these acts of terror” and offering any support Israel needs.

Speaking to reporters on Sunday, the prime minister said that “terrorism will not prevail” and promised that the UK would help Israel in the wake of the attack by Hamas.

“The UK for a long time has been one of Israel’s strongest allies in supporting its right to self-defence, and indeed, providing the kinds of equipment that Israel has used to defend itself from these appalling attacks over the past 36 hours,” he said.

“We will continue to do everything that we can to help. When I spoke to Prime Minister Netanyahu … I assured him of that support, and said that the UK stood ready to provide that support, whether that’s diplomatic or security support.”

US president Joe Biden also spoke with Netanyahu to express his support on Sunday. And US secretary of state Antony Blinken said Washington would announce new assistance for Israel, after Hamas fighters rampaged through Israeli towns.

Blinken said that part of the motivation for Hamas’s shock attack may have been to disrupt a potential normalization of relations between Israel and Saudi Arabia, “along with other countries that may be interested in normalizing relations with Israel”.

The secretary of state told CNN that the US is working to verify reports that several Americans were killed or are missing. One French citizen had died as a result of the attacks in Israel, a spokesperson for the French foreign ministry said on Sunday.

Polish president Andrzej Duda said on Sunday that his country would send military planes to evacuate its citizens from Israel.

UNRWA, the UN agency for Palestinian refugees, said that more than 20,000 Palestinians had left Gaza’s border region to head further into the territory and take refuge in UN schools.

Hamas said it had planned for a long fight. “We are prepared for all options, including all-out war,” the deputy head of its political bureau, Saleh al-Arouri, told Al-Jazeera TV. Netanyahu braced Israel’s residents for a drawn-out conflict, saying: “This war will take time. It will be difficult.”

Meanwhile, Britain’s home secretary Suella Braverman said that she expects the police to “use the full force of the law” against displays of support for Palestinian militants, after videos emerged of people celebrating the attack on Israel on the streets of London.

Adam Forrest – Political Correspondent

Andy Gregory – Freelance news reporter