Israel’s actions in Gaza have gone ‘beyond reasonable self-defence’ — Streeting

Israel’s actions in Gaza have gone “beyond reasonable self-defence” and may have breached international law, a senior Labour MP has said.

Shadow health secretary Wes Streeting made the critical comments after stating that his party is “considering” its options on whether to back an SNP-led vote this week on an immediate ceasefire in the Middle East.

Labour has so far not ruled out backing the Commons motion, with fears it could reopen deep divides among MPs on the Israel-Hamas war.

The SNP’s Westminster chief Stephen Flynn has said he has offered to meet Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer on Monday to discuss the vote, which is scheduled to take place on Wednesday.

The motion comes in the wake of a row over the Rochdale by-election, which saw Labour take the highly unusual step of withdrawing support for candidate Azhar Ali after he suggested Israel took Hamas’ October attack as a pretext to invade Gaza.

Mr Streeting told TalkTV on Monday that the Opposition party wants to see “what the final motion looks like”.

He added: “We are not going to be pushed around by protesters, and we are not going to be told what to say by our opponents in Parliament either.”

Sir Keir used a speech at Scottish Labour’s conference in Glasgow on Sunday to call for a “ceasefire that lasts” in the Middle East, in an echo of previous calls by UK ministers for a “sustainable ceasefire”.

Stephen Flynn
SNP Westminster leader Stephen Flynn has offered to meet Sir Keir Starmer over his party’s Gaza motion (House of Commons/PA)

He said Israel had gone “too far” in its reaction to the October 7 raids by Hamas.

That attack by the Palestinian militant group killed about 1,200 people, with around 250 taken hostage.

Militants still hold around 130 hostages, and a quarter of them are believed to be dead.

The war has killed at least 28,985 Palestinians, according to the Hamas-run Gaza health ministry.

Mr Streeting told Sky News: “We want to see a ceasefire, of course we do.

Keir Starmer
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer called for a ‘ceasefire that lasts’ in the Middle East while speaking in Glasgow (Jane Barlow/PA)

“Israel has a responsibility to get its hostages back, every country in the world has a right to defend itself.

“But I think what we have seen are actions that go beyond reasonable self-defence and also call into question whether Israel has broken international law.

“The ICJ (International Court of Justice) is now investigating and we take all of that seriously.”

A spokeswoman for the Chief Whip said a decision had not been made on Conservative whipping arrangements ahead of a possible vote on Wednesday’s SNP motion.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s official spokesman, asked about Mr Streeting’s criticisms of Israel, told reporters on Monday: “As the Prime Minister said to the prime minister of Israel last week, we continue to support Israel’s right to defend its people against Hamas’s terror.

“But we are concerned about the loss of civilian life in Gaza and the humanitarian crisis.

“And that is why the immediate priority must be to negotiate a pause that allows both the safe release of hostages and to facilitate far more aid going into Gaza.”

Israel Palestinians
Palestinians line up for a free meal in Rafah, Gaza Strip (AP Photo/Fatima Shbair)

There are fresh fears about an escalation in the conflict if Israeli forces move into the city and major aid delivery point in southern Gaza.

Number 10 said it is “hopeful” that the priority right now is “negotiating this pause in order to allow allow the safe release of hostages and more aid into Gaza”.

The Arab Group chair this month, Tunisia’s UN ambassador Tarek Ladeb, told UN reporters last Wednesday that some 1.5 million Palestinians who sought safety in Rafah face a “catastrophic scenario” if Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu goes ahead with a potential evacuation of civilians and military offensive in the area bordering Egypt.

Mr Streeting said any decision to move into the region would be an “intolerable escalation”.

“We are now at a really dangerous tipping point in relation to Rafah where the crossing is with Egypt, where there is a real risk of innocent Palestinians being pushed out of Gaza into the desert,” he told TalkTV.

Downing Street said the UK Government is “deeply concerned about the potentially devastating humanitarian impact” of a military incursion into Rafah.

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