Prime Minister Rishi Sunak urged Saudi Arabia to support stability in the Middle East as Israel geared up for a “long war” with Hamas.

Mr Sunak visited Tel Aviv on Thursday – where he said he wanted Israel to win the war – before heading to Saudi Arabia for talks with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman as part of an effort to prevent the Israel-Hamas confrontation spiraling into a wider conflict.

The Prime Minister said: “As an international community, we must not let Hamas’s terror attack become a catalyst for a terrible humanitarian crisis in Gaza.

“We will work together to ensure regional stability and prevent a dangerous escalation.”

In a statement following the meeting with the crown prince, No 10 said the pair agreed that the “loss of innocent lives in Israel and Gaza over the last two weeks has been horrific” and “underscored the need to avoid any further escalation in the region”.

Mr Sunak “encouraged the crown prince to use Saudi’s leadership in the region to support stability, both now and in the long-term”, No 10 said.

The Prime Minister earlier had meetings with Israel’s prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu and president Isaac Herzog.

Mr Netanyahu told Mr Sunak that he hoped for the UK’s “continuous support” in his country’s “long war” as it fought back against Hamas following the Palestinian militant group’s deadly and unprecedented assault on Israel on October 7.

The Israeli premier said his forces were fighting against the “worst monsters on the planet” during the “world’s darkest hour” as he warned there would be “ups and downs” during the war.

Mr Sunak, speaking at a joint press conference after discussions with his counterpart lasting about two hours, said he was “proud” to stand with Israel and that the UK Government “wants you to win”.

Israel defence minister Yoav Gallant has told ground troops on the Gaza border to “be ready” to enter the Occupied Palestinian Territory, but he did not say when the invasion would start.

Asked what Mr Sunak made of Mr Netanyahu’s assessment that Israel was facing a “long war”, a spokeswoman for the Prime Minister said: “It is not for us to comment on the detail of the Israeli approach.”

The latest figures from No 10 confirmed that at least nine British nationals were killed in the Hamas raids on Israel.

A further seven British nationals are missing “some of whom are feared to be among the dead or kidnapped”, Downing Street said.

The PA news agency understands that one of the Britons was Yonatan Rapoport, who was killed when Hamas gunmen rampaged through a kibbutz.

Mr Rapoport, known as Yoni, was reportedly one of those murdered in the attack on Kibbutz Be’eri.

He had two children, Yosefi and Aluma, and, as a Manchester United fan, had planned to take his son to Old Trafford next month for his first game, the BBC reported.

The UK Government has not confirmed how many Britons are among the hostages held by Hamas, although at least two are known to be being kept captive, with Mr Sunak meeting with their families while in Tel Aviv.

The British leader thanked the Israeli government for its efforts in helping to secure the release of UK citizens being held hostage. About 200 people in total are said to have been snatched in the Hamas raids.

Mr Sunak welcomed Mr Netanyahu’s decision, after lobbying by US president Joe Biden, for Israel to start letting aid into the Gaza Strip.

It marks a potential break in a punishing and highly controversial siege on the territory after Israel’s retaliation on Hamas saw it block access for water, food, electricity and other essential supplies to the 25-mile strip, while also carrying out strikes.

The Prime Minister said the UK would seek to get “more support to people as quickly as we can” as he reiterated that Palestinians living under Hamas rule in Gaza were also victims.

Palestinians wounded
The UK Government is being urged to lobby for a ceasefire by both British political leaders and charities working in the region (Abed Khaled/AP)

Israel continued to pound locations across Gaza on the day of Mr Sunak’s visit to Tel Aviv, including firing on parts of the southern strip that had been declared safe zones.

Many among Gaza’s 2.3 million residents have cut down to one meal a day and have been left to drink dirty water amid dwindling supplies.

Scotland’s First Minister, Humza Yousaf has called on Foreign Secretary James Cleverly, who is on his own diplomatic blitz across Egypt, Qatar and Turkey, to press for a resolution that could help those UK citizens “trapped in Gaza”.

Mr Yousaf, whose mother and father-in-law are stuck in the territory, said the lack of focus on those unable to escape the bombardment in the 25-mile strip was “shameful”.

Katy Chakrabortty, Oxfam’s head of advocacy, said Mr Sunak should be pushing for a ceasefire: “Wanting Israel to ‘win’ is not a helpful statement. Nobody wins when the scale of human suffering, devastation and pain is so vast and relentless.

“We need all parties to commit to a ceasefire and for full, unfettered humanitarian access to Gaza now.”

Mr Sunak is expected to stay overnight in Saudi Arabi following talks with the Crown Prince. No 10 is yet to confirm whether he will visit another Middle East capital before wrapping up his two-day trip on Friday.