KEIR Starmer has rejected calls for a ceasefire in Gaza and claimed it could risk more violence in the region.

In a speech attempting to quell dissent within the Labour party over his stance on the Israel-Hamas war, Starmer told an audience in London on Tuesday that a ceasefire would "embolden" Hamas.

It comes after a Labour frontbencher dismissed calls from Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar and London Mayor Sadiq Khan for a ceasefire, as they are "not part of the shadow cabinet" or Westminster group.

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Starmer has also faced pressure after a number of councillors and Scottish officials resigned from the party over his claims that Israel had the right to withhold energy and water from Gaza. The Labour MP would later claim he did not say the state could withhold aid. 

And now, in a speech at Chatham House in London, Starmer said: “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. And as we speak, that would leave Hamas with the infrastructure and the capabilities to carry out the sort of attack we saw on October 7.

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“Attacks that are still ongoing. Hostages who should be released, still held.

“Hamas would be emboldened and start preparing for future violence immediately.”

He added that the only "credible approach" was humanitarian pauses to allow aid to be delivered into Gaza.

“It is this context which explains my second reason, which is that our current calls for pauses in the fighting, for clear and specific humanitarian purposes and which must start immediately, is right in practice as well as principle," he added. 

“In fact it is at this moment, the only credible approach that has any chance of achieve what we all want to see in Gaza, the urgent alleviation of Palestinian suffering.

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“Aid distributed quickly. Space to get hostages out.

“And it is why it is also a position shared by our major allies in the US and the EU.”

Starmer continued to resist backing calls for a ceasefire but said “open-ended” military action is “ultimately futile”.

He said: “Over time, the facts on the ground will inevitably change in relation to both hostages being rescued and Hamas’s capability to carry out attacks like we saw on October 7, and we must move to cessation of fighting as quickly as possible.

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“Because the reality is that neither the long-term security of Israel nor long-term justice for Palestine can be delivered by bombs and bullets.

“Open-ended military action, action without a clear and desired political outcome, is ultimately futile. This needs to begin now, because a political agreement, however unlikely that seems today, however painful the first steps are to take, is the only way to resolve this conflict once and for all.”

He also said the supply of water, medicines, electricity and fuel to citizens in Gaza “cannot be blocked by Israel”.

“The right to self-defence is fundamental, but it is not a blank cheque,” he said.

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Starmer has said he has a duty to address collective responsibility in his party amid rebellion over Labour’s stance on the Israel-Hamas conflict.

Asked by the BBC following his speech if he would allow ministers to undermine his responsibility if he were to become prime minister, the Labour leader said: “I think it is impossible for anyone to see the suffering we are seeing in Gaza and not feel compelled to try and do something about it.

“That is why I said in my short speech that I understand why people are asking for a ceasefire.”

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He added: “There is unity and yet I am obviously engaging with my frontbenchers, but there is unity in what we want to see, which is the alleviation of the awful situation in Gaza.

“It is for me to address collective responsibility, I recognise that.

“It matters and I take that duty extremely seriously, but I put it in the context of understanding what is driving people in the call for a ceasefire, which is in my judgment not the call that we should be making as things stand for the reasons I have set out.”

Labour frontbencher Alex Cunningham called for an “immediate ceasefire” less than an hour before Starmer delivered his speech.

On Monday, Labour suspended MP Andy McDonald, claiming comments he made at a pro-Palestine rally were “deeply offensive”.