Israel-Palestine war: Muslim councillors call on Starmer to demand ceasefire in Gaza
Pressure is mounting on Labour leader Keir Starmer to call for a ceasefire in Gaza as dozens of Muslim Labour councillors sign an open letter demanding an end to the humanitarian disaster unfolding in the besieged enclave.
The letter, organised by the Labour Muslim Councillors Network, has been signed by approximately 150 councillors, with many coming from areas with a sizeable Muslim electorate.
"As Labour councillors elected to serve our constituents, this message we have been repeatedly hearing over the past two weeks is simple. People just want an end to the bloodshed and loss of innocent life," the letter said.
Ongoing Israeli strikes have since killed at least 6,546 people, including more than 2,704 children and 1,584 women, according to Palestinian officials. An additional 1,600 people, including 900 children, are missing and presumed to be trapped under rubble.
"No nation, no people or community should have to endure collective punishment, and the same should be the case for the Palestinian people. We are also clear that hostages held captive must also be returned to their families safely."
Starmer on Wednesday met with Labour's Muslim MPs in a bid to ease tension over the party's stance on the situation in Gaza.
"I don't agree with the party leadership and how it's handled this situation since the crisis has begun," Khan told Middle East Eye.
"Our leader must do the right thing and demand a ceasefire in Gaza to end the bloodshed that has killed so many children in the last two weeks.
"Calling for an immediate ceasefire is not difficult, and the Labour Party has avoided doing that for no reason, and the tacit support it is giving to Israel is essentially giving a green light to what the Israeli army is doing in Gaza, and that needs to stop."
Over the past two weeks, Starmer has faced heavy criticism from the UK's Muslim community after making comments that appeared to show him supporting Israel's decision to cut electricity and water to the Gaza Strip.
Several Labour councillors have also resigned in protest against Starmer's comments after the party advised councillors and MPs to not attend pro-Palestine rallies.
The resignations have led to Labour losing its majority and control of Oxford City Council. Among the councillors who have left the Labour Party is Amna Latif, the first Arab Muslim woman to be elected to Manchester City Council.
Starmer has since rowed back on his remarks, calling for the "water and power to be switched back on", without naming Israel in his clarification tweet.
Starmer has also faced criticised from the Muslim community in Wales after he visited a mosque in Cardiff on Sunday and later said that he had used his visit to call for Hamas to release the hostages it captured during its attack on southern Israel.
Since then, the centre has received criticism from the Muslim community for allowing the visit, forcing the mosque to release a statement reaffirming its commitment to a "free Palestine".
In the statement, the centre expressed "dismay" at Starmer's comments, saying he "gravely misrepresented our congregants and the nature of the visit.
"We apologise for the hurt and confusion that our hosting of this visit has caused," it said.
Meanwhile, in Leicester, the entire city council's Labour group on Tuesday unanimously called on all political party leaders, including Starmer, to call for an "immediate and permanent ceasefire" in Gaza.
The statement comes after Peter Soulsby, who has served as the mayor of Leicester since 2011 and was formerly a Labour MP, said that while Starmer was right to condemn the attacks in southern Israel by Palestinian fighters on 7 October, he was concerned about Starmer's stance on Israel's subsequent response.
"The impression that has been given is that this condemnation of recent events extends to approving uncritically the Israeli government's response and of ignoring the decades of injustice and the oppression of Palestinians and the violations of their human rights," Soulsby wrote in a letter obtained by Middle East Eye.
The mayor also said that he had visited the occupied Palestinian territories and believed that Israeli settlement activity, as well as Israel's treatment of Palestinians, had created a "breeding ground for despair and terrorism".