Hamas released a video of its gunmen firing rocket-propelled grenades at tanks, under the title: “This is what awaits you in Gaza.”

The Israeli military last invaded Gaza in 2014 and faces a dense network of tunnels and booby-traps, manned by as many as 30,000 Hamas terrorists.

On Saturday, Germany’s air force announced it was sending two planes to evacuate its citizens from Israel, with a full-blown war set to break out.

In an apparent attempt to ward off the invasion, Iran’s foreign minister warned that Israel would face attack from Iranian proxies if it crossed into Gaza, saying there were only “hours” left to avoid a wider conflagration.

Pro-Iran proxies, such as the Lebanese terrorist group Hizbollah, “are prepared, and their finger is on the trigger to shoot”, said Hossein Amir-Abdollahian.

Iran has warned Israel that it will intervene in the war if the Gaza operation goes ahead, according to Axios, a US news website. The warning was reportedly passed on via the UN. 

Following his pledge to support Israel’s right to defend itself, Joe Biden, the United States president, is understood to be quietly concerned about the wider impact the imminent ground invasion will have on the Middle East.

On Saturday, Mr Biden said he is working with Israel, Egypt, Jordan and the United Nations “to surge support to ease the humanitarian consequences of Hamas’s attack, create conditions needed to resume the flow of assistance, and advocate for the upholding of the law of war”.

It comes as Antony Blinken, the US secretary of state, spoke to Wang Yi, the Chinese foreign minister, on the phone in a bid to persuade Beijing to help prevent the conflict spreading.

The intervention by Mr Dowden, a close ally of Rishi Sunak, came as the Prime Minister pledged to stand by Israel – a position stated repeatedly by Cabinet ministers and Sir Keir Starmer, the Labour leader, who said: “Israel has the right, indeed the duty, to defend herself and rescue these hostages.”

However, some members of the Labour front bench have begun warning of “grave concerns” about the implications of the IDF’s order for more than a million Palestinians to relocate to southern Gaza. 

Amid fears of Sir Keir’s unequivocal support fracturing at lower levels of the party, it emerged that Labour’s leadership had urged MPs and councillors not to attend demonstrations relating to the conflict. 

In cases where Labour members do attend protests, they should not brandish Labour flags, said David Evans, the party’s general secretary, in an email to constituencies.

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