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Keir Starmer: Israel-Hamas ceasefire may risk further violence | Keir Starmer

A permanent ceasefire in the Israel-Hamas war could risk further violence, Keir Starmer is expected to say, as he attempts to quell growing tensions within his party over the conflict.

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

Starmer will defend Labour’s calls for a humanitarian pause to allow Palestinians to flee the fighting, and for aid to be distributed.

He is expected to say 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 UN.

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.

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.

At least 12 shadow ministers – including Afzal Khan, Rushanara Ali, Andy Slaughter, Jess Phillips and Florence Eshalomi – are among those who have joined calls for an end to the fighting.

Labour has also been at odds over its stance on Israel with devolved mayors including Andy Burnham in Manchester and Sadiq Khan in London calling for ceasefires, and with Labour-led councils across England.

The party was unlikely to sack its internal critics from frontbench roles, and would instead “continue engaging” with them, the shadow science secretary, Peter Kyle, said on Sunday.

Starmer is expected to reiterate that Labour supports Israel’s right to keep its people safe, within the guidelines of international law.

He is also expected to make clear this means vital services must be switched on and aid increased. Also, the military operation must be measured, and civilians must not be permanently displaced.

The Labour leader angered some within the party after appearing to suggest Israel had the the right to cut off the supply of power and water to Gaza.

In an interview with LBC on 11 October, Starmer was asked whether this was an “appropriate” response by Israel to the Hamas attacks. “I think that Israel does have that right,” he said. “Obviously everything should be done within international law, but I don’t want to step away from the core principles that Israel has a right to defend herself.”

Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, the Labour MP and shadow minister for the creative industries, Chris Bryant, said Starmer was “completely right” to emphasise that the peace process between Israel and the Palestinian territories needed to get back on track.

“Every single one of us in the Labour party is calling for peace, peace with justice and security,” Bryant said, adding that the Labour leadership was calling for a “pause” rather than a ceasefire because that was the fastest way to get food, water, medicine and power into Gaza.

“How could you have a ceasefire with Hamas who have no intention of laying down their weapons, and haven’t even said they will return the hostages?”

Bryant added: “From the very outset, of course, Keir Starmer led by saying we must condemn these horrific attacks, but he also said very clearly and in terms we urge all leaders to act proportionately and in line with international law.

“We stand by Israel, they have a right to self defence, but it’s not a carte blanche.”

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

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 the home secretary, Suella Braverman, claiming it was “widely understood” to call for the destruction of Israel.

McDonald, who now sits as an independent, said he would fully cooperate with the investigation into his suspension and trusted “that the whip will be restored”.

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