Steve Coogan condemns ‘horrific’ Hamas attacks while defending pro-Palestine letter

Steve Coogan has condemned Hamas while defending his signature on an open letter calling for a Gaza ceasefire.

Earlier this week, more than two thousand cultural figures, including Coogan, Tilda Swinton and Miriam Margolyes, accused the government of “not only tolerating war crimes but aiding and abetting them” in the wake of the Israel-Hamas conflict.

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The letter, which was also been signed by directors Mike Leigh, Asif Kapadia and Michael Winterbottom, Outlander star Sam Heughan as well as comedians Josie Long and Frankie Boyle, was written by Artists for Palestine UK.

It called for an “end to the unprecedented cruelty being inflicted on Gaza” and urged governments to “end their military and political support for Israel’s actions”.

However, there has been a backlash by those who claim the letter should have condemned Hamas after the Palestinian militant group launched its largest-ever attack on Israel, which killed more than 1,000 people on Saturday 7 October.

In response, Israel has imposed a “total siege” on Gaza, ordering evacuations ahead of an expected ground invasion. Rights groups have warned that the move could be classed as a war crime if carried out, with more than a million people fleeing their homes amid dwindling water supplies and the impending collapse of hospitals.

In a statement released to the PA news agency on Sunday, Coogan said: “I just want to make sure that is correct, and I do of course condemn the recent Hamas terrorist attacks on Israel; their deliberate murder of civilians and their taking of hostages. All right thinking people do.

“The Jewish people have been uniquely the target of hate and prejudice for millennia and anyone who cares about human rights should be vigilant and call it out when they encounter it. It goes without saying that what Hamas did is evil beyond imagination. It was horrific and brutal.

“It is in no way inconsistent with condemnation of the Hamas atrocity, to express grave concern for the lives and welfare of innocent Palestinian civilians facing a humanitarian disaster, deprived of food, water, medicine fuel and shelter.”

Steve Coogan (Ian West/PA)
Steve Coogan (Ian West/PA)

In a statement to X/Twitter, Sam Heughan said he “inadvertently” signed the letter and it does not reflect his “beliefs”.

Heughan added: “I believed it was a simple call for peace… It wasn’t.

“I condemn violence in any form. I stand against terrorism and evil and am heartbroken and appalled by the recent horrific actions by Hamas. It’s haunting to the core, my heart goes out to all affected.

“I don’t know nearly enough and (I am) trying to educate myself on the conflicts in the Middle East.

“I feel helpless and wish I could help in some way. I pray for compassion, for all the innocent people affected. Peace and love to you all. X.”

Additional reporting by Agencies