BRITISH RAF jets have been used to shoot down Iranian drones after Tehran announced it had launched an attack on Israel in what threatens to become a major regional escalation.

Warplanes in Iraq and Syria have been deployed to intercept “any airborne attacks within range of our existing missions”, the Ministry of Defence said.

Later, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak confirmed RAF jets shot down “a number of” attack drones, saying the fallout in regional stability would have been “hard to overstate” if fewer projectiles had been intercepted.

Israeli military spokesperson Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari said 99% of more than 300 drones, cruise missiles and ballistic missiles had been shot down outside the country’s borders with aircraft intercepting more than 10 cruise missiles.

READ MORE: Iran: No further operations are planned if Israel does not respond

Speaking from Downing Street, Sunak said: “I want to pay tribute to the bravery of our pilots.”

He said lives were saved “not just in Israel, but in neighbouring countries such as Jordan as well”.

“I can confirm that our pilots did shoot down a number of Iranian attack drones.”

He said Iran sent both missiles and attack drones and did not specify how many were shot down by RAF forces.

He then reiterated his support for Israel following the drone and missile attacks by Iran.

Sunak said: “We stand by the security of Israel and the wider region, which is of course important for our security here at home too.

“What we now need is for calm heads to prevail, we will be working with our allies to de-escalate the situation and I am looking forward to meeting with G7 leaders this afternoon.”

READ MORE: Iran Israel attack: Ian Blackford calls for Rishi Sunak statement

US President Joe Biden said he would convene a meeting of G7 leaders on Sunday “to co-ordinate a united diplomatic response to Iran’s brazen attack”.

Reports in Israel suggested RAF and US warplanes had shot down some Israel-bound Iranian drones over the Iraq-Syria border area amid the unprecedented attack.

Some restrictions have been lifted in Israel, according to the BBC, with people no longer needing to stay near shelter in some areas.

Video showed a group of Iranians gathered outside the British embassy in Tehran celebrating the attack.

It brings the two archenemies to the brink of all-out conflict as the war in Gaza inflames decade-old tensions in the Middle East, with the US vowing to back Israel.

In a late-night statement on Saturday, the MoD said: “In response to increased Iranian threats and the growing risk of escalation in the Middle East, the UK Government has been working with partners across the region to encourage de-escalation and prevent further attacks.

“We have moved several additional Royal Air Force jets and air refuelling tankers to the region. These will bolster Operation Shader, which is the UK’s existing counter-Daesh operation in Iraq and Syria.

“In addition, these UK jets will intercept any airborne attacks within range of our existing missions, as required.”

Tehran had been threatening to attack since an air strike, which it blamed on Israel, last week killed two Iranian generals in Syria.

The National:

Victoria Atkins (above) has said the UK Government is putting “all of our efforts” into de-escalation in the Middle East, saying no one wants to see a “miscalculation or an escalation.”

There is a call between G7 leaders planned later on Sunday, the Health Secretary confirmed, saying Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has already had calls this morning after holding a Cobra meeting on Friday and being kept updated throughout the night.

Speaking on Sunday Morning with Trevor Phillips, she said: “All of our efforts at the moment are on de-escalating this. We do not want a miscalculation or an escalation in events because we know that that will take its toll.”

She refused to be drawn on the extent to which RAF planes have been involved in protecting Israel from the Iranian attack, saying she could not provide a running commentary on a “live operation”.

“The Prime Minister held a Cobra meeting on Friday, he was kept updated throughout yesterday and last night and has had calls already this morning, and there is planned to be a G7 leaders call later today,” Atkins said.