Three men were reported to have leapt from a white van after it ploughed into pedestrians on London Bridge.
Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis has led the Jewish world’s response to last night’s terror attack in London which left at least seven people dead and around 50 injured.
Three men were reported to have leapt from a white van after it ploughed into pedestrians on London Bridge at around 10.20pm, before going on to attack members of the public with machete-like knives.
Police responded with huge force and shot the attackers dead within minutes, but the attacks led to chaotic scenes in the area and in nearby Borough Market.
Counter-terror officers were seen putting bars and restaurants into lockdown, moving building-to-building in an apparent search for more attackers.
Responding to the attacks, Rabbi Mirvis said in the early hours of the morning: “In the wake of yet another attack, of more loss of life and of more families devastated by terror, every one of us will once again feel the now too familiar sense of horror and helplessness.
“After Westminster and Manchester we stood together defiant. Yet it seems the terrorists believe that where they have previously failed to poison our communities, with their destructive ideology of hatred and prejudice, they can succeed with still more bloodshed and murder. But we must not let them.
“We will not be cowed or intimidated nor will we allow our commitment to the values of peace and tolerance to be diminished. In the face of every attack, however devastating, we must continue to cleave ever closer to these values because ultimately they are what will defeat the evil of terror.”
Gillian Merron, Board of Deputies chief executive, said: “We condemn last night’s terrorist incident in the London Bridge area in the strongest terms. Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims and our gratitude is with the emergency services. People of all faiths and none must come together to defeat this evil.”
The attack prompted the Community Security Trust to issue advice to Jews in the capital.
The group said community members should “keep alert and report any suspicious activity”.
In Stamford Hill, north London, extra police patrols were seen in areas with strictly Orthodox residents.
Rabbi Charley Baginsky, of Liberal Judaism, said: “We know that, for many people, it seems we have entered a new reality and, for others, that we have crossed back into one.
“Words like ‘we will stay strong’ and ‘we are united’ are essential, but we also recognise how exhausting it can be to wake up and go to sleep worried for loved ones, our children’s future and for ourselves.
“But we must stand by our words, and greet this hatred with love and a belief that the future for Britain lies only in our community being united by our support of difference and tolerance.
“Our thoughts and prayers are with those who are mourning, those whose loved ones are missing and those who had to witness and live with the aftermath of these horrific attacks.”
Israel’s Foreign Ministry said it condemned the attacks and pledged: “We stand with the British people at this time.”
The European Jewish Congress (EJC) expressed its “horror and sadness” following the incident.
“Unfortunately, once again London has been hit at its very centre by a barbarous and repugnant terrorist killing spree,” Dr Moshe Kantor, EJC president said.
“However, we saw the resilience of the British people last night and we know it will continue as the government and police will do its utmost to find those behind these slayings.
“The European Jewish Congress and the Jewish communities of Europe extend our deepest condolences to the British government and people and pray for the welfare of those injured.”
The attack has prompted the temporary suspension of national campaigning ahead of this week’s general election.
Prime Minister Theresa May, who has chaired an emergency Cobra meeting and will hold further meetings with security chiefs during the day, said the attack was “dreadful”.
Jeremy Corbyn, Labour leader, said: “We are all shocked and horrified by the brutal attacks in London. My thoughts are with the families and friends of those who have died and the many who have been injured. Today, we will all grieve for their loss.
“I would like to thank the police and emergency services for their bravery and professionalism in acting to save lives and deal with these appalling acts of terrorism, as well as NHS staff and members of the public who sought to protect others.
“Those who wish to harm our people, divide our communities and attack our democracy will not succeed. We will stand together to defend our common values of solidarity, humanity and justice, and will not allow terrorists to derail our democratic process.”
Tim Farron, the Liberal Democrat leader, said: “The terrorists kill us because they hate us and what we stand for. They hate our democracy and our freedom. We refuse to let them win. We must respond with a vigorous commitment to our democracy.
“The election must go ahead as planned. It is right that we suspend our national campaigning for a short while out of respect for those affected by these tragic events, but local campaigning can and must continue.
“The remainder of this campaign must be a collective showing of defiance and pride in our democratic values.”
Eyewitnesses reported the attackers shouting that they were acting “for Allah”, and police said the men had been wearing fake suicide bomb vests.