Labour calls for immediate humanitarian ceasefire in Gaza for first timePublished44 minutes agoShareclose panelShare pageCopy linkAbout sharingRelated TopicsIsrael-Gaza warImage source, SkyImage caption, Shadow foreign secretary David Lammy says Labour’s position is now in line with the UK’s alliesBy Sam Francis, political reporter & Henry Zeffman, chief political correspondentBBC NewsLabour has called for an immediate humanitarian ceasefire in Gaza for the first time since the outbreak of the conflict in October.The move comes after days of party debate on how to vote in Parliament on an SNP motion calling for a ceasefire.Ten Labour frontbenchers quit in order to vote for the SNP’s previous call for a ceasefire in November. Shadow foreign secretary David Lammy said Labour had shifted because the situation in Gaza had “evolved”.Starmer suffers major rebellion over Gaza voteKeir Starmer calls for Gaza ‘ceasefire that lasts’Why are Israel and Hamas fighting in Gaza?Mr Lammy said Labour was “mirroring the language” of the UN and the remaining members of the Five Eyes alliance – made up of the United States, Australia, New Zealand and Canada’s intelligence services.On Tuesday, Labour tabled an amendment, which for the first time uses the phrase “immediate humanitarian ceasefire”, to the SNP’s ceasefire motion. Labour Leader Sir Keir Starmer has for some time been calling for the fighting to stop “now”. It means that in practical effect Labour’s position is now much closer to the SNP’s – although Labour’s amendment emphasises more than the SNP’s the role of Hamas as well as Israel in bringing about a lasting ceasefire. 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.”Changing positionIsrael declared war on Hamas after the group led an attack on communities inside Israel, killing around 1,200 people.Since then, according to the Hamas-run health ministry, more than 28,000 Palestinians have been killed and 68,000 injured as Israel launched missiles and ground operations into the Gaza Strip in response.Until now the Labour Party’s leadership has avoided using the phrase “immediate ceasefire”, which led to a clear split in the party in November when 56 of Labour’s 198 MPs backed an SNP motion.Ten of those were frontbenchers who had to leave their positions for holding views against the party leadership.Sir Keir had instead called for a “humanitarian pause” and an end of fighting “as soon as possible”. Whether or not those positions are substantively different, the crucial political fact is that this is designed to be seen as a slight hardening of Labour’s position towards Israel. Clive Betts, who was one of the Labour MPs to defy the leadership and back the SNP’s calls for an immediate ceasefire in November, said Labour’s amendment was “a really firm, strong statement, which I think the party will unite behind”. However, left-wing campaign group Momentum, said: “Scratch the surface of this amendment and it falls well short of what the moment requires: a clear call for an immediate ceasefire. “By making its call for a ceasefire so conditional and caveated, the Labour leadership is giving cover for Israel’s brutal war to continue.”SNP Westminster leader Stephen Flynn welcomed what he described as a “long-overdue U-turn” by Sir Keir. He said the Labour leader was “forced into this position through public pressure and, in particular, by the SNP”. Mr Flynn also called on Prime Minister Rishi Sunak to back an immediate ceasefire. This week, Sir Keir has come under increasing pressure after the Scottish Labour party passed a motion calling for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza.Labour’s position on Gaza has also come under scrutiny in the upcoming Rochdale by-election, where the party dropped its parliamentary candidate over antisemitic comments he apparently made during a discussion about the conflict.The SNP motion calls for an “immediate ceasefire in Gaza and Israel” as the “only way to stop the slaughter of innocent civilians”.It also “condemns” any military assault on the Gazan city of Rafah. Israeli war cabinet member Benny Gantz has warned the manoeuvre will be launched unless Hamas frees all its hostages by 10 March. The date marks the start of Ramadan, the Islamic holy month of fasting.If passed, the SNP’s opposition day motion is not binding on the government. Instead, they typically express opposition MPs’ position on a particular issue.The big unanswered question remains how Labour would vote on the SNP motion. The two parties’ positions on how Israel should act now appear to be very similar, though there are undoubted differences in emphasis. Whether any of this Westminster semantics has any resonance whatsoever in the Middle East is a whole separate question. Foreign Secretary Lord David Cameron has said the government is “calling for a stop to the fighting right now, we think that what we need is a pause in the fighting and the hostages to come out and aid to go in.”Speaking during a visit to the Falkland Islands, Lord Cameron said: “What we need to do is turn that pause into a permanent, sustainable ceasefire.”Related TopicsIsrael-Gaza warKeir StarmerDavid LammyLabour PartyMore on this storyStarmer suffers major rebellion over Gaza votePublished16 November 2023Scottish Labour backs ‘immediate ceasefire’ in GazaPublished3 days agoKeir Starmer calls for Gaza ‘ceasefire that lasts’Published2 days ago