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Israel-Palestine war: Labour Muslims condemn Starmer for backing 'collective punishment'

The leader of the opposition Labour Party had earlier backed Israel's right to cut water and power to the besieged territory 'within international law'
Keir Starmer's Labour Party have not yet clarified how cutting water to Gaza can be done within international law (AFP)

Muslim members of the UK's Labour Party have condemned its leader for what they called the "endorsement" of collective punishment of Palestinians in Gaza.

In a statement published on Wednesday afternoon, shortly after Starmer's comments defending Israel's "right" to cut power and water supplies to Gaza, the Labour Muslim Network (LMN) called on the British opposition leader to withdraw his comments.

"Collective punishment is a war crime. Cutting off power and water to hospitals and life-serving facilities is a war crime," the organisation said.

"No government, no army, and no country can ever be above international law.

"We ask you directly, Sir Keir: retract your comments, apologise to Palestinians, and meet urgently with Palestinian representatives and organisations in the UK, LMN and the Muslim Council of Britain."

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Starmer had earlier told LBC's Nick Ferrari that Israel had the right to cut water and power supplies to Gaza's residents but added the caveat that "everything should be done within international law."

Middle East Eye has contacted the Labour Party for comment, asking it to clarify its stance on collective punishment but has not received a response.

The use of starvation of the civilian population as a method of warfare is prohibited under customary international law.

According to Article 33 of the Geneva Convention IV: "Collective penalties and likewise all measures of intimidation or of terrorism are prohibited."

Starmer's comments came amid what Gaza's residents describe as the worst bombardment of the territory in living memory.

More than a thousand Palestinians have been killed by air strikes that have levelled entire neighbourhoods with the death toll expected to rise rapidly.

Israel launched its campaign against the territory after an attack by Palestinan fighters based in Gaza on southern Israel.

In the most significant assault on Israel in decades, the fighters killed at least 1,200 people and took dozens as hostages.

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