Leaders of the G7 have warned an “uncontrollable regional escalation” in the Middle East must be prevented amid simmering tensions after Iran’s unprecedented attack on Israel.

In a joint statement following an urgent call on Sunday, countries including the UK and US said they “stand ready to take further measures now and in response to further destabilising initiatives”.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak earlier confirmed that British RAF jets shot down a number of Iranian drones after the country announced it had launched retaliatory action against its long-standing enemy.

The statement released shortly after the talks on Sunday afternoon said: “We, the leaders of the G7, unequivocally condemn in the strongest terms Iran’s direct and unprecedented attack against Israel.”

It expressed “full solidarity” with Israel and said Tehran had “further stepped toward the destabilisation of the region and risks provoking an uncontrollable regional escalation” which “must be avoided”.

The leaders of the Group of Seven advanced economies also referred to Gaza, where an Israeli offensive, sparked by Hamas’s October 7 attack that claimed the lives of 1,200 people, has caused widespread devastation and killed more than 33,000 Palestinians.

“We will also strengthen our co-operation to end the crisis in Gaza, including by continuing to work towards an immediate and sustainable ceasefire and the release of hostages by Hamas, and deliver increased humanitarian assistance to Palestinians in need,” their statement said.

Israel said Iran launched 170 drones, more than 30 cruise missiles and at least 120 ballistic missiles in an assault that set off air raid sirens across the country.

(PA Graphics)

By Sunday morning Tehran said the attack was over and Israel reopened its air space having said it had intercepted along with its allies 99% of the projectiles launched towards its territory.

The assault came in response to a strike widely blamed on Israel on an Iranian consular building in Syria earlier this month, which killed two Iranian generals.

It is the first direct military attack launched by Tehran on Israel despite enmity dating back to the 1979 Islamic Revolution.

The latest development brought years of shadow war between the two foes out into the open as the conflict in Gaza inflames decades-old tensions in the Middle East.

Speaking to journalists in Downing Street on Sunday morning, the PM described the strikes as “dangerous and unnecessary”, warning that the fallout in regional stability would have been “hard to overstate” if they had been successful.

(PA Graphics)

Foreign Secretary Lord David Cameron later summoned the charge d’affaires of the Iranian embassy to the Foreign Office and “formally condemned” the attack in a call with his Iranian counterpart, Hossein Amir-Abdollahian.

He also demanded Tehran release the Portuguese-flagged MSC Aries, a container ship associated with Israeli billionaire Eyal Ofer’s Zodiac Group, which was seized by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard.

The UK was one of several countries which helped to counter Saturday’s attack, with additional RAF warplanes deploying over Iraq and Syria, where armed forces were already operating as part of the Operation Shader mission against the so-called Islamic State.

Rescuers said a seven-year-old girl was seriously wounded in southern Israel, apparently in a strike, although they said police were still investigating the circumstances of her injuries.

The Biden administration has indicated it does not want the assault to spiral into a broader military conflict as Israeli war cabinet minister Benny Gantz said the country would “collect a price” for Tehran’s strike.

A top US official said the US had informed Israel it did not plan on striking Iran itself.

All eyes will be on the response from Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government, with countries in the region and elsewhere urging restraint to avoid intensifying the conflict.

Meanwhile, Labour called on the UK to impose “further sanctions” in response to the attack following the G7 call on Sunday afternoon.

Shadow foreign secretary David Lammy suggested the Opposition had been kept abreast on Privy Council terms of the Government’s action overnight but said it was important for the PM to update Parliament on Monday.

Downing Street has not confirmed whether Mr Sunak will address the developments in the Commons, but it is likely a statement will be made.