Wed. Apr 17th, 2024

A permanent ceasefire in Israel and Palestine could risk more violence in the region, Sir Keir Starmer is expected to say as he defends his position on the conflict.

The Labour leader will make a speech on Tuesday calling on global leaders to work towards restoring peace in the Middle East.

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But Sir Keir will defend Labour’s calls for a humanitarian pause, rather than a ceasefire, to allow Palestinians to flee the fighting and for aid to be distributed.

He is expected to say that a permanent ceasefire at this stage could leave Hamas with the capability to carry out further attacks in Israel.

Humanitarian pauses typically last for short periods of time with the aim of providing aid and support rather than achieving long-term political solutions, according to the United Nations.

Ceasefires are intended to be long-term and usually seek to allow parties to engage in talks, including the possibility of reaching a permanent political settlement.

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IDF footage from Gaza ground operation

Defending Sir Keir’s position ahead of the speech, shadow minister Chris Bryant told Sky News: “I don’t know what a ceasefire would look like… when Hamas’s declared aim is to get rid of the Israeli state and to kill Jews, purely and simply to kill Jews.

“I don’t know how you can have a negotiation with people who engaged in the horrific attacks on completely innocent civilians, as Hamas did.”

However, several senior Labour figures have diverged from the official party line by backing a full ceasefire, including mayors Sadiq Khan and Andy Burnham, Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar and shadow ministers Yasmin Qureshi, Jess Phillips, and Imran Hussain.

The party is not likely to sack its internal critics from frontbench roles, and will instead “continue engaging” with them, shadow science secretary Peter Kyle said on Sunday.

However Middlesbrough MP Andy McDonald was suspended from the parliamentary party on Monday, after what a Labour spokesman said were “deeply offensive” remarks made at a speech during a pro-Palestinian rally.

Mr McDonald said: “We won’t rest until we have justice. Until all people, Israelis and Palestinians, between the river and the sea, can live in peaceful liberty.”

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A slogan used by pro-Palestinian demonstrators, “from the river to the sea, Palestine will be free”, has been described as antisemitic by critics, with Home Secretary Suella Braverman claiming that it is “widely understood” to call for the destruction of Israel.

But the senior Labour MP said his reference to it was part of a “heartfelt plea” for peace, while former shadow chancellor John McDonnell called the suspension “nonsensical”.

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People ‘upset’ over Labour’s reaction to war

Sir Keir has previously provoked anger in the Labour party with his position on the conflict, after he appeared to suggest in an LBC interview that Israel had the the right to cut off the supply of power and water to Gaza.

He has since claimed he had only meant to say Israel had a general right to self-defence and he was answering a previous question – though the Labour leadership has acknowledged the comments caused “upset and hurt”.

Israel began a bombing campaign on Gaza after a surprise Hamas attack which saw at least 1,400 people killed and thousands more injured in Israel, and around 200 people taken hostage on 7 October.

The Hamas-run Gaza health ministry has said more than 8,000 people have been killed in the 25-mile strip since then, with Israel also launching a ground offensive and a blockade on water, food, fuel and other essentials.

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