Deputy Prime Minister Oliver Dowden has told members of the UK’s Jewish community that the Government will do all it can to help Israel secure the release of hostages taken by Hamas.
Around 240 people were captured during the militant group’s attack on Israel on October 7, with 78 freed during a ceasefire and prisoner exchange at the end of November.
Speaking alongside Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mervis at a vigil in Borehamwood, Hertfordshire, on Friday, Mr Dowden said the UK was “four-square” behind Israel in its efforts to remove the threat of Hamas.
He said: “I stand before you, not just as the Deputy Prime Minister, nor as the member for Hertsmere, but also as a proud friend of Israel and a supporter of our Jewish community.
“I want to say to you that the Government stands four-square behind the central missions of Israel, of the Israel Defence Force, of the Israeli Government, namely, number one, to secure the release of every one of these hostages, and we will stand four-square until that is delivered.
“But not only that, we must ensure that this cannot happen again, and that means, however difficult it is, we have to remove the threat of Hamas to stop it being able to do this to Israel again, and we stand four-square behind Israel in that mission as well.”
Around 150 people attended the vigil, holding red balloons and placards with messages calling for the release of Israeli hostages.
The Chief Rabbi added: “During the festival of Hanukkah we celebrate a time when the forces of good overcame the forces of darkness, when light prevailed over all which was bad in the world.
“And that is our prayer right now, that we will see the successful release of our hostages. It is so awfully cruel. There is no word in the English language to describe the despicable acts of those who have terrorised an entire people and who have taken little babies, elderly people into captivity.”
In between speeches, the crowd sang traditional Jewish songs and some men and women could be seen crying.
The vigils in Borehamwood have been taking place weekly and are expected to carry on until all the hostages are released.