Armed Forces Minister James Heappey reaffirmed the UK’s commitment to supporting Israel as he visited the British military bases in Cyprus.

The defence minister emphasised the strategic significance of having personnel on the island as he said Israel’s allies “need to watch their back”.

“What has happened in Israel is abhorrent. A completely unprovoked, barbaric attack by terrorists onto innocent people. Israel has every right to defend itself, and it will,” Mr Heappey told Forces News.

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“And as it does so, we, their friends, need to watch their back to make sure that in this complicated region, no one else tries to get involved, that this remains an issue around Gaza.”

The UK is sending military support to Israel in the form of surveillance aircraft and ships.

The military package includes multi-task Poseidon (aircraft, surveillance assets, two Royal Navy ships – RFA Lyme Bay and RFA Argus, as well as three Merlin helicopters and a company of Royal Marines. 

Mr Heappey reiterated the importance of Cyprus as a staging post to look after the UK’s interest “in this very complicated region”.

Cyprus is a Commonwealth nation in the Eastern Mediterranean, less than 500km away from Israel.

Mr Heappey said that the involvement of Cyprus in the deployment of British military assets to the Mediterranean is still to be determined by Whitehall, however, the British bases’ capabilities provide a reassuring presence in the region.

“The really important thing about this place is that it is always ready 365 days a year for us to position staff into in order to do whatever needs to be done, whether that is something that’s happening in the Black Sea or whether it’s something that’s happening in Sudan or whether it’s something that’s happening in Israel.”

Mr Heappey expressed full confidence in the military personnel stationed in Cyprus.

“I’ve every confidence that the Rifles just like the Duke of Lancaster’s, will be ready and trained and good to go for whatever it is that the Government asks of them over the next few months,” he said.

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