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War on Gaza: Labour Party calls for ‘immediate humanitarian ceasefire’


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War on Gaza: Labour Party calls for ‘immediate humanitarian ceasefire’

The call comes ahead of a crunch parliamentary vote calling for ceasefire proposed by the Scottish National Party

MEE staff

Labour leader Keir Starmer speaks to party members in Glasgow on 18 February (AFP/Andy Buchanan)

The British Labour Party is calling for an “immediate humanitarian ceasefire” in Gaza, reversing its previous backing of Israel’s campaign in the besieged territory.

Announced on Tuesday ahead of a crunch vote on the issue, Labour MPs are being asked to back an amended version of a Scottish National Party (SNP) motion calling for an immediate stop to fighting.

In a statement, the Labour Party said: “Our amendment calls for an immediate humanitarian ceasefire, in line with our allies. We need the hostages released and returned. We need the fighting to stop now. We need a massive humanitarian aid programme for Gaza. And any military action in Rafah cannot go ahead.”

Labour leader Keir Starmer had previously backed Israel’s “right” to military action and its “right” to cut food, electricity, fuel and water supplies to Gaza’s approximately 2.3 million residents.

However, a death toll close to 30,000 Palestinians, the vast majority of whom are civilians, and the International Court of Justice declaring provisional measures to prevent genocide in the Strip, appear to have forced Labour to change course.

In recent days, senior frontbench MPs within the opposition party have openly criticised Israel’s conduct in the war in a change of tone from previous statements.

They included Shadow Health Secretary Wes Streeting, who on Sunday said Israel had gone “beyond reasonable defence” in its assault on Gaza.

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Labour Shadow Foreign Secretary David Lammy also condemned the Gaza death toll as “abominable”.

The party leadership has come under criticism for backing Israel’s war despite the massive civilian casualties and huge destruction of civilian infrastructure, including hospitals, mosques and schools.  

Israel’s conduct during the conflict has left its supporters in the West struggling to explain their backing of the state.

In January, the ICJ ruled that there was a “plausible” case that Israel was committing genocide in Gaza, a decision it reached after an application by the South African government.

Interim injunctions by the ICJ included a call for Israel to allow the delivery of aid into Gaza and to stop incitement against Palestinians.

Following the release of Labour’s amendment, the UK Palestine Solidarity Campaign questioned its wording, saying the amendment “seeks to dilute the clear call for an immediate ceasefire by handing the Israeli government a veto over whether or not a ceasefire should happen”.

A Labour abstention on the SNP motion would likely have led to a rebellion by some party MPs against its leader Keir Starmer.

In a previous vote on the issue in November, 56 Labour MPs broke ranks with the party position to abstain on the motion and instead voted in support of a ceasefire.

The Labour Party is expected to comfortably win the UK general election, which is expected to take place towards the end of 2024.

Labour Party calls for ‘immediate humanitarian ceasefire’ in Gaza for first time

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