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The Independent UK
The Independent UK
Dominic McGrath

Sadiq Khan becomes latest Labour figure to back Israel-Hamas ceasefire

PA Wire

London Mayor Sadiq Khan has become the latest senior Labour figure to call for a ceasefire in the escalating conflict between Israel and Gaza, adding to further pressure on Sir Keir Starmer to defend his stance.

It comes as the Labour leader has sought to reassure Muslim MPs and grassroots members in recent days amid anger about previous remarks on the Israel-Hamas conflict, as well as his resistance to joining calls for a ceasefire.

The Labour leader has joined Rishi Sunak, the US and most recently the EU in pushing for “humanitarian pauses”, but remains firm in his backing for Israel’s right to defend itself.

A widespread military escalation will only deepen the humanitarian disaster
— Sadiq Khan

Mr Khan, who became the first ever Muslim mayor of the capital in 2016, added his voice to calls for a ceasefire on Friday.

In a statement and accompanying video, posted on social media, he said: “I join the international community in calling for a ceasefire. It would stop the killing and would allow vital aid supplies to reach those who need it in Gaza.

“It would also allow the international community more time to prevent a protracted conflict in the region and further devastating loss of life.

“A widespread military escalation will only deepen the humanitarian disaster. It will increase human suffering on all sides. No nation, including Israel, has the right to break international law,” he added.

Shadow environment secretary Steve Reed had earlier said he “empathises” with MPs angry about the party leadership’s stance on the crisis in Gaza, but stood by the position taken by Sir Keir.

The Labour leader met with Muslim Labour MPs earlier this week, amid a row over comments in an LBC interview in which he appeared to back Israel cutting off power and water in Gaza.

The comments, which he has since rowed back, prompted resignations among Labour councillors and angered the party’s MPs, even those on the front benches as shadow ministers.

Mr Khan said that Israel did have the right to defend itself, but warned that the “terrible situation in Gaza now looks set to deteriorate even further”.

Since the start of the latest conflict in the Middle East, the London mayor has expressed concern about a rise in both antisemitism and Islamophobia – meeting both Jewish and Muslim faith leaders in London.

Mr Reed offered a strong defence of the leadership’s position, as he spoke directly to Labour members unhappy with the stance.

“I completely understand and empathise with colleagues who are seeing what’s going on in Gaza and are just feeling desperate, so many viewers will be looking at those scenes today and feel just anguish at the pain and suffering that is going on,” he told Sky News.

“But what I would say to colleagues is if this attack that Israel suffered had been on the UK, if it had been on the US, our state, the United States and our state would have sought to defend ourselves to protect our citizens by dismantling the capability of a terrorist organisation that carried it out, that applies to Israel too, they have the right under international law to do that.

“But in taking that work, they must continue to follow international law as they carry it out, but long-term, the only solution to this crisis is not going to be military.

“It can only be negotiated politically and we need the whole international community to focus on it much more than has been the case over recent decades.”

More than 250 Muslim Labour councillors urged Sir Keir and deputy leader Angela Rayner to back an “immediate ceasefire” in Gaza, with his original comments on LBC also sparking resignations from councillors.

Mr Reed told LBC that doing the “right” thing was the priority, not votes.

Asked if the row could have an impact at the ballot box, he said: “I think (it) won’t because and the reason I think that is in politics, you should do the right thing, not the electorally expedient thing.”

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