Sir Keir Starmer addresses "horrifying comments" about Gaza after Manchester councillor quits

Sir Keir Starmer.
Sir Keir Starmer wrote to Labour councillors to 'reassure' them of his position. Credit: PA Images

The Labour leader has written to councillors telling them he believes it is "important that people hear directly what our position is".

Sir Keir Starmer faced a string of resignations by councillors over his comments on the Israel-Hamas conflict in an interview on October 11 in which he appeared to say Israel has "the right" to withhold energy and water from Gaza.

Labour Councillor Amna Abdullatif for Ardwick, Manchester, said she would resign after he made "horrifying comments about Israel having the right to withhold fuel, water, food and electricity from the 2.2 million Palestinians trapped in Gaza, effectively endorsing a war crime".

Oxford City Councillors Shaista Aziz and Amar Latif also said they were resigning from Labour for similar reasons.

Lubaba Khalid, a Palestinian photographer who had been a Young Labour BAME (black, Asian and minority ethnic) officer handed in her resignation following the interview on LBC.

A Labour spokesman said there were 'overlapping questions and answers' and Sir Keir was speaking about Israel's right to defend itself, rather than to cut off power and water.

Jewish community hold a vigil in Manchester to show solidarity with Israel. Credit: ITV Granada

The spokesman added: "He respects those who are councillors who have communities to represent across the religious spectrum, across people of all faiths and none.

"And it's right that people hear directly from the leader of the Labour Party with what our position actually is, I think that's the responsible thing to do."

The spokesman said Labour's position is to "completely condemn" the Hamas attacks on Israel and to say that Israel has "a right to defend herself, to go and get the hostages back".

At Prime Minister's Questions, Sir Keir said: "Medicines, food, fuel and water must get into Gaza immediately.

"Innocent Palestinians need to know that the world is not just simply watching but acting to prevent a humanitarian catastrophe".

Labour chief of staff, Sue Gray, and shadow foreign secretary David Lammy held urgent talks with council leaders on Monday 16 October amid concern over further resignations.

Meanwhile, MPs on Labour's left called for an immediate ceasefire in a parliamentary early day motion.

Richard Burgon, secretary of the Socialist Campaign Group, said: "Preventing the death of any more civilians must be our top priority.

"That means we need an immediate ceasefire.

"The UN General Secretary has called for this.

"It is crucial that political leaders across the world, including our own, back that call to avoid the loss of any more civilian lives."

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