Labour calls for ‘immediate humanitarian ceasefire’ in Gaza

Labour has called for an “immediate humanitarian ceasefire” in the Israel-Hamas conflict in a major shift in the party’s stance on the war.

The Opposition party has tabled an amendment to the SNP’s ceasefire in Gaza motion, to be voted on in the House of Commons on Wednesday.

Sir Keir Starmer has previously called for a “ceasefire that lasts” in the Middle East, but stopped short of using the word “immediate”.

The Labour leader’s position on the conflict has long caused unease among some in his party, with dozens of Labour MPs breaking ranks over an earlier SNP motion three months ago.

A party spokesperson 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…

“We want the fighting to stop now. We also have to be clear on how we prevent the violence starting up again. There will be no lasting peace without a diplomatic process that delivers a two-state solution, with a safe and secure Israel alongside a viable Palestinian state.”

The motion calls on MPs to “support Australia, Canada and New Zealand’s calls for Hamas to release and return all hostages and for an immediate humanitarian ceasefire, which means an immediate stop to the fighting and a ceasefire that lasts and is observed by all sides”.

Palestinians search rubble
The amendment will call for an immediate ceasefire (AP)

He also told broadcasters: “We said back on October 7 that we supported Israel’s right to defend itself. It is our assessment that there has been a considerable degrading of Hamas’s ability.

“We want those hostages to come out. But we’re absolutely clear that what we now need is an immediate humanitarian ceasefire.”

That requires “both sides to lay down their arms,” Mr Lammy said.

The SNP’s motion is shorter and calls for “an immediate ceasefire” without some of the qualification attached by Labour.

Shadow foreign secretary David Lammy said an immediate humanitarian ceasefire requires both sides to lay down their arms (Maja Smiejkowska/PA)

It 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’s October attack as a pretext to invade Gaza.

A similar motion tabled by the SNP in November saw 10 shadow ministers and parliamentary aides rebel to back an immediate ceasefire, with some 56 Labour members defying a three-line whip and backing an amendment to the King’s Speech.

Clive Betts, who was among those to defy the leadership, welcomed the party’s change in position and said he expected Labour to “unite” behind the amendment.

Labour would not get into the consequences for MPs who do not vote for its amendment this week.

Sir Keir, speaking at the Scottish Labour conference on Sunday, called for a “ceasefire that lasts” in the Middle East, in an echo of previous calls by UK ministers for a “sustainable ceasefire”.

Scottish Labour delegates backed calls for an immediate humanitarian ceasefire in Gaza at the gathering.

SNP General Election campaign launch
SNP Westminster leader Stephen Flynn urged all MPs to vote for his party’s Gaza ceasefire motion (Steve Welsh/PA)

He said: “Through Parliamentary pressure we have inserted a backbone into the Labour Party.”

Amnesty International UK’s head of government affairs Karla McLaren said: “It’s come months after it should have done, but we welcome Labour’s call for an immediate Gaza ceasefire…

“A ceasefire call on its own is not enough though – the UK Government must take meaningful action to deter Israel from continuing to commit grave violations of international humanitarian law.”

No 10 said it was not yet able to set out how the Government planned to vote on Wednesday’s SNP motion.

A spokeswoman for the Prime Minister said its position had not changed and that ministers continue to support an “immediate humanitarian pause” that would allow time for hostages to be released and aid to reach the Palestinian people.

Any ceasefire would need to be sustainable by meeting certain conditions, including “hostages being released, Hamas no longer being in charge of Gaza (and) removing the terrorist infrastructure”, Rishi Sunak’s spokeswoman said.

Hamas’ October 7 attack on Israel killed around 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 unleashed by the atrocity has killed at least 29,100 Palestinians, according to the Hamas-run Gaza health ministry.

Meanwhile, the Prince of Wales called for fighting to end “as soon as possible” and increased humanitarian support for Gaza.

In a statement ahead of carrying out visits to recognise the human suffering caused by conflict in the Middle East and the global rise in antisemitism, William said he was “deeply concerned” about the “terrible human cost” since the Hamas terror attack, and said there was a “desperate need” for increased humanitarian support for Gaza.

In New York, the US has proposed a UN Security Council resolution calling for a temporary ceasefire and opposing a ground offensive by its ally Israel in the southern Gaza city of Rafah.

The US had previously refrained from using the term ceasefire.

Downing Street declined to say whether the UK would support the US’s draft resolution on Tuesday.

The Prime Minister’s spokesman told reporters: “It’s a long-standing practice that we wouldn’t reveal our voting intention on resolutions in advance.

“But clearly we have consistently supported an immediate humanitarian pause in Gaza, leading to a longer-term sustainable ceasefire.”

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