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Keir Starmer's key comments about Gaza in the past three weeks

Britain's main opposition Labour Party leader Keir Starmer delivers a speech in central London on October 31, 2023. (Photo by Daniel LEAL / AFP) (Photo by DANIEL LEAL/AFP via Getty Images)
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer defends his approach to the Israel-Hamas conflict in a speech on Tuesday. (AFP via Getty Images) (DANIEL LEAL via Getty Images)

Keir Starmer remains under pressure over his stance on the Israel-Hamas conflict after two Labour council leaders called for him to resign.

Asjad Mahmood, of Pendle Borough Council, and Afrasiab Anwar, of Burnley Council, said Starmer should go amid unhappiness among numerous MPs and party members over his refusal to back a ceasefire as the crisis continues to escalate.

Sixteen of Starmer's frontbenchers have now defied him by either calling for a ceasefire themselves or sharing others’ calls on social media.

The row has dogged Starmer since a controversial interview with LBC three weeks ago (see further down this page). On Friday, the Labour leader faced repeated questions from reporters about his position on the conflict during an event which was intended to highlight the party’s plans on business, building and jobs.

It has also seen his personal poll ratings drop.

As he continues to face pressure, Yahoo News UK sets out what Starmer has said about the conflict over the past three weeks.

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11 October

This is when the row started.

In an interview with LBC four days after the onset of the conflict, Starmer said: “I’m very clear Israel must - does - have that right to defend herself and Hamas bears responsibility.”

He was then asked if a siege and cutting off power and water in Gaza was appropriate - and Starmer said: “I think that Israel does have that right.

“It is an ongoing situation. 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 and Hamas bears responsibility for the terrorist acts.”

A backlash followed. Over the next week, a number of Labour councillors resigned from the party.

One, Amna Abdullatif of Manchester City Council, said she was quitting in the wake of Starmer’s “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”.

Labour Party leader Sir Keir Starmer delivers a a speech to the North East Chamber of Commerce at Wynard Hall in Stockton on Tees. Picture date: Friday November 3, 2023. (Photo by Owen Humphreys/PA Images via Getty Images)
Labour Party leader Sir Keir Starmer has faced weeks of pressure over his stance on the Israel-Gaza conflict. (PA Images via Getty Images) (Owen Humphreys - PA Images via Getty Images)

20 October

In the wake of two by-election victories in which Labour took Conservative seats, Starmer publicly addressed the row for the first time as he denied ever backing Israel withholding humanitarian aid from Gaza.

He argued he had intended to say Israel has the right to defend itself and retrieve 200 hostages “within international law”.

“I was saying that Israel has the right to self-defence, and when I said that right I meant it was that right to self-defence. I was not saying that Israel had the right to cut off water, food, fuel or medicines.”

Later that day, pro-Palestinian demonstrators protested outside the party’s London headquarters, with chants including “Labour Party blood on your hands”.

31 October

By this time, Starmer was under growing pressure to call for a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas after leading Labour figures - including London mayor Sadiq Khan, Scottish party leader Anas Sarwar and a number of frontbenchers from his own shadow cabinet - broke ranks to challenge his stance.

In an attempt to quell the row, he delivered a speech at Chatham House, a foreign affairs think tank in London, defending his approach.

He again resisted ceasefire calls, saying: "While I understand calls for a ceasefire at this stage, I do not believe that it is the correct position now for two reasons. One, because a ceasefire always freezes any conflict in the state where it currently lies.

Watch: Permanent ceasefire could risk more violence - Sir Keir Starmer

“And, as we speak, that would leave Hamas with the infrastructure and the capabilities to carry out the sort of attack we saw on 7 October. Attacks that are still ongoing. Hostages who should be released [are] still held. Hamas would be emboldened and start preparing for future violence immediately.”

He said a humanitarian pause is the “only credible approach” which could see “the urgent alleviation of Palestinian suffering”.

Meanwhile, police were forced to intervene after pro-Palestinian protesters mobbed Starmer’s car on his way out of the building.

3 November

Starmer once again rejected calls for a ceasefire.

He said: “To say to a sovereign country [Israel] when 200 of its civilians are being held hostage that they must give up their right to self-defence, is not for me the correct position."