Keir Starmer says Hamas would be 'emboldened' by Israel-Gaza ceasefire

In a speech on Tuesday, Sir Keir Starmer said that a humanitarian pause is the "only credible approach" to the ongoing conflict

Hamas would be "emboldened" by a ceasefire in Gaza and start preparing for future violence against Israel immediately, Sir Keir Starmer has said.

The Labour leader said that while he understood calls for a pause in the fighting, he did "not believe that it is the correct position now".

In a speech on Tuesday, he said that a humanitarian pause is the "only credible approach" to the ongoing conflict.

He said it was his belief that a ceasefire "always freezes any conflict in the state where it currently lies", adding: "And as we speak, that would leave Hamas with the infrastructure and the capabilities to carry out the sort of attack we saw on October 7."

The Labour leader's latest intervention on the conflict comes as several MPs on his frontbenches have broken ranks to call for a ceasefire, contradicting his support for a humanitarian pause.

Sir Keir said: "we must move to cessation of fighting as quickly as possible" because the solution cannot be delivered by "bombs and bullets".

"Open-ended military action, action without a clear and desired political outcome, is ultimately futile," he said.

"This needs to begin now, because a political agreement, however unlikely that seems today, however painful the first steps are to take, is the only way to resolve this conflict once and for all."

Shadow ministers Yasmin Qureshi, Jess Phillips, and Imran Hussain are among figures in the Labour Party who have joined calls for an end to the fighting.

Sir Keir has rejected calls for a ceasefire. Credit: PA

Sir Keir used his speech to say he has a duty to address collective responsibility in his party, saying he was "engaging" with frontbench MPs.

He said: "But there is unity in what we want to see, which is the alleviation of the awful situation in Gaza.

"It is for me to address collective responsibility, I recognise that.

"It matters and I take that duty extremely seriously, but I put it in the context of understanding what is driving people in the call for a ceasefire, which is in my judgment not the call that we should be making as things stand for the reasons I have set out."

Labour has also been at odds over its stance on Israel with devolved mayors like Andy Burnham and Sadiq Khan, and with Labour-led councils across England.

But 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.

Middlesbrough MP Andy McDonald has meanwhile been suspended by Labour, after what a party spokesman said were "deeply offensive" remarks made at a speech during a pro-Palestine rally.

Mr McDonald said his reference to the phrase "between the river and the sea" was part of a "heartfelt plea" for peace in the region.

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.

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