LABOUR have called for an "immediate humanitarian ceasefire" in Gaza, walking back support for Israel's bombardment of Palestine.

In the face of mounting domestic and international criticism of Israel’s response to Hamas’s attacks on October 7, Labour have been forced to alter their position.

It comes just a day before MPs were due to vote on an SNP motion calling for a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas, which many Labour MPs were expected to support.

Labour on Tuesday tabled an amendment to the SNP motion which calls for an “immediate humanitarian ceasefire” but which also calls for Israel to have the “right to the assurance that the horror of 7th October cannot happen again”. 

A Labour spokesperson said: “Our amendment calls for an immediate humanitarian ceasefire, in line with our allies. We need the hostages released and returned. We need the fighting to stop now. We need a massive humanitarian aid programme for Gaza. And any military action in Rafah cannot go ahead.

READ MORE: Humza Yousaf urges international community 'to demand ceasefire' amid Rafah invasion

“There needs to be an end to violence on all sides. Israelis have the right to the security that the horror of October 7 cannot happen again.

“We want the fighting to stop now. We also have to be clear on how we prevent the violence starting up again. There will be no lasting peace without a diplomatic process that delivers a two-state solution, with a safe and secure Israel alongside a viable Palestinian state.”

The National: Keir Starmer

Labour MPs have been whipped to abstain on the SNP's motion but it remains unclear whether Labour's amendment will be put to a vote as the Speaker may select the Government's motion instead, which calls for an immediate humanitarian "pause".

The SNP’s motion goes further in its criticism of Israel than Labour’s amendment, accusing the country of carrying out the “collective punishment” of Palestinians.

Labour meanwhile stressed that a ceasefire could not be expected “if Hamas continues with violence” but also called on Israel to “comply with the International Court of Justice’s provisional measures” which included the court ordering the country to take steps to prevent genocide in Gaza.

It comes amid mounting criticism of Israel’s bombardment of Gaza, which has so far seen 28,000 Palestinians killed and the creation of a major refugee crisis in the territory.

It is estimated around half of Gaza’s population – some 1.5 million people – are crammed into the border city of Rafah, which Israel has threatened with a major ground offensive in the coming weeks.

READ MORE: David Cameron pleads with Israel to 'stop and think' ahead of Rafah ground offensive

While Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu has told Palestinians in Rafah to flee the town, observers have said there is nowhere for them to go, given that much of the Gaza Strip is now uninhabitable.

America has stepped up its criticism of Israel in light of the expected invasion, with the US proposing a United Nations Security Council resolution calling for a temporary ceasefire and opposing the Rafah offensive.

Foreign Secretary David Cameron has also this week called for an immediate “pause in the fighting”.

Keir Starmer’s party is extremely vulnerable to the domestic tensions created by Israel’s assault on Gaza and has changed its position on the issue since fighting broke out in October.

The SNP exposed cracks in Labour by forcing a vote in November calling for a ceasefire – while Starmer was arguing for “humanitarian pauses” to allow aid into Gaza.

The National: Stephen Flynn

SNP Westminster leader Stephen Flynn (above) said he had written to every member of parliament urging them to support his party’s ceasefire motion.

In his letter, Flynn said: “By failing to join the UN, world leaders and humanitarian organisations in calling for an immediate ceasefire – the UK has made one less likely. It’s time for Westminster to end its silence and say – ‘enough is enough'.

“No one is pretending this is a simple situation, or that one vote will magically result in a ceasefire overnight – but a ceasefire is more likely to happen if the UK parliament and government join international pressure, than if they fail.”

The SNP bid has the support of Amnesty International Scotland director Neil Cowan, who said: “The motion for an immediate ceasefire should be unreservedly supported by all parties and all MPs – not with ifs, buts or other qualifications.”