Home Secretary Suella Braverman has said the hundreds of thousands of people taking to the streets in support of Palestine were taking part in “hate marches”.

She urged officers to take a “zero-tolerance approach to antisemitism” after attending an emergency Cobra meeting chaired by Rishi Sunak on Monday.

The Prime Minister told police and the security agencies to conduct tabletop exercises simulating responses to counter-terror or public order scenarios, a Downing Street source said.

Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Mark Rowley warned on Sunday that terrorism is being “accelerated” by events in the Middle East, as he raised concerns about “state threats from Iran”.

Speaking after the Cobra meeting in Whitehall, Ms Braverman agreed with the view of the UK’s most senior officer but indicated the terror threat level was not being hiked yet.

She told broadcasters that the Joint Threat Assessment Centre that determines the level “has maintained its assessment to date”.

But she struck out at the marches that have been taking place across the UK in support of the Palestinian people as Gaza is besieged by Israel and coming under aerial bombardment.

“We’ve seen now tens of thousands of people take to the streets following the massacre of Jewish people, the single largest loss of Jewish life since the Holocaust, chanting for the erasure of Israel from the map,” she said.

“To my mind there is only one way to describe those marches: they are hate marches.”

She said police are concerned there are a “large number of bad actors who are deliberately operating beneath the criminal threshold in a way which you or I or the vast majority of the British people would consider to be utterly odious”.

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Sir Mark has previously suggested the laws may need to be redrawn so that officers have greater powers to tackle chants deemed to be extremist.

But Ms Braverman said: “If there is a need to change the law… I would not hesitate to act”.

She urged police to take a “zero-tolerance approach to antisemitism” but said decisions on the ground are for officers to take when asked about the “from the river to the sea, Palestine will be free” chant.

Ms Braverman has previously branded the chant as antisemitic, while Downing Street went less far on Monday to say it is “a deeply offensive chant to many”.

The phrase to some is a call of support for the Palestinian people, but others interpret it is a demand for the dismantling of Israel.

The chant has been a feature of the widespread marches, with estimates of each of the two taking part over the last two weekends in London being at around 100,000.

Thousands more have taken part in protests in other cities in the UK, including in Manchester, Birmingham, Glasgow and Belfast.

People in Gaza
Only aid is currently being allowed through the Rafah crossing between Egypt and Gaza (Hatem Ali/AP)

Mr Sunak used Monday’s Cobra meeting to ask the police and security services to ensure they are taking steps to mitigate against the risk of terrorism, a source in No 10 said.

The Prime Minister was said to have asked all governmental departments to urgently review their external engagement to ensure resources are not going to organisations that express sympathy with terrorist activity.

The Foreign Office gave the meeting an update on efforts to secure the release of British hostages in Gaza and on talks to get UK nationals out of the strip too.

Meanwhile, Foreign Secretary James Cleverly was in Abu Dhabi for talks on getting humanitarian aid into Gaza and allowing civilians, including British nationals, to leave.

He said the United Arab Emirates has had a “thoughtful and authoritative” voice on aid, as he meets Emirati foreign minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan.

Mr Cleverly warned supplies are “predominantly stuck” in Egypt as allies push for a “humanitarian pause” to allow aid to reach the Gaza Strip, which is home to more than two million people.

 Trucks with humanitarian aid for the Gaza Strip enter from Egypt in Rafah
Trucks with humanitarian aid for the Gaza Strip enter from Egypt in Rafah (Fatima Shbair/AP)

“It’s trickling through, but we need a significant increase in the volume,” he told broadcasters in the UAE.

Around 200 UK nationals in Gaza have contacted the Foreign Office as hopes are pinned on getting the Rafah crossing with Egypt opened to allow their release.

White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan has said Egypt and Israel are prepared to let foreign nationals out of Gaza, but Hamas are “preventing their departure and making a series of demands”.

Scottish First Minister Humza Yousaf said his in-laws have run out of drinking water after getting trapped in Gaza while visiting family.

The UK Government is only calling for a pause in the fighting rather than the ceasefire the United Nations and others are pushing for.

Mr Sunak has argued that Tel Aviv has a right to defend itself as it seeks to rescue the more than 239 hostages seized by Hamas because its fighters killed more than 1,400 people in Israel.

Thirty-three lorries entered Gaza on Sunday in the largest aid convoy since the attack provoked Israel’s siege, cutting off food, water, fuel and medicines to combatants as well as civilians.

Israeli troops and tanks pushed deeper into northern and central Gaza on Monday, as Tel Aviv expanded its ground offensive after pounding the territory with air strikes.

The death toll among Palestinians has passed 8,000, according to the Hamas-run Gaza health ministry.