Rishi Sunak has announced that Royal Navy vessels and surveillance aircraft are being sent to the eastern Mediterranean to support Israel.

The prime minister said the British armed forces being deployed would “support efforts to ensure regional stability and prevent further escalation” in the conflict between Tel Aviv and Gaza.

At least 2,400 lives have been claimed by the violence in the Middle East which was ignited by a wide-ranging Hamas attack on Israel at the weekend.

Downing Street said maritime patrol and surveillance planes will begin flying in the region from Friday to track threats, including monitoring activity such as the “transfer of weapons to terrorist groups”.

News Shopper: RFA Argus is one of the vessels being deployedRFA Argus is one of the vessels being deployed (Image: Cpl Paul Shaw/MoD/Crown Copyright/PA)

Why are British armed forces being deployed to Israel?

It added that a Royal Navy task group will be moved to the eastern Mediterranean next week as a contingency measure to support humanitarian efforts.

P8 aircraft, surveillance assets, two Royal Navy ships – Royal Fleet Auxiliary (RFA) vessels Lyme Bay and Argus – three Merlin helicopters and a company of Royal Marines are among the military package.

The British armed forces will be on standby to “deliver practical support to Israel and partners in the region, and offer deterrence and assurance”, No 10 said.

Earlier this week the Prime Minister’s official spokesman said there were “no plans to redeploy UK military assets to Israel” but this seems to have changed.

Mr Sunak said: “We must be unequivocal in making sure the types of horrific scenes we have seen this week will not be repeated.

“Alongside our allies, the deployment of our world-class military will support efforts to ensure regional stability and prevent further escalation.

“Our military and diplomatic teams across the region will also support international partners to re-establish security and ensure humanitarian aid reaches the thousands of innocent victims of this barbaric attack from Hamas terrorists.”