Sir Keir Starmer has written to Labour councillors setting out his position on the Israel-Hamas conflict after a string of resignations over his stance.

The Labour leader believes it is “important that people hear directly what our position is”.

A Labour spokesman said: “He respects those who are councillors who have communities to represent across the religious spectrum, across people of all faiths and none.

“And it’s right that people hear directly from the leader of the Labour Party with what our position actually is, I think that’s the responsible thing to do.”

The spokesman said Labour’s position had consistently been to “completely condemn” the Hamas terrorist attacks on Israel, to say that Israel has “a right to defend herself, to go and get the hostages back”.

But “all parties need to act in accordance with international law” and it was “vitally important” that humanitarian aid reached Gaza.

Councillors had been able to hear directly from the front bench to hear the party’s position, the spokesman said, “not least given how some of these issues can get edited on social media”.

Amna Abdullatif, a councillor in Ardwick in Manchester since 2019, said on Monday she would quit Labour after Sir Keir made “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”.

It came after Shaista Aziz and Amar Latif, of Oxford City Council, said they were resigning from Labour for similar reasons.

Lubaba Khalid, a Palestinian photographer who had been a Young Labour BAME (black, Asian and minority ethnic) officer, said last week that she had handed in her resignation following the LBC interview.

The resignations did not cease after Sir Keir’s letter, with Lara Parizotto, a councillor in Brentford, announcing on Wednesday that she had resigned from the party.

The London politician said she had attended a demonstration “in solidarity with Palestine” on the weekend that “Labour councillors were advised not to attend”.

She added: “My work and values will remain unapologetically pro-migrant, anti-racist, decolonial, and intersectional.

“At present, I feel unable to stand by my principles as a member of the Labour Party.”

The issue stemmed from the interview Sir Keir did with LBC Radio on October 11 in which he appeared to say Israel has “the right” to withhold energy and water from Gaza.

But the Labour spokesman said there were “overlapping questions and answers” and Sir Keir was speaking about Israel’s right to defend itself, rather than to cut off power and water.

The spokesman added: “What you saw was Keir say that everything had to be done in accordance with international law, that has been consistent in all of the interviews that he has done.”

At Prime Minister’s Questions on Wednesday, Sir Keir said “medicines, food, fuel and water must get into Gaza immediately” because “innocent Palestinians need to know that the world is not just simply watching but acting to prevent a humanitarian catastrophe”.

Asked if Sir Keir was happy for councillors who disagreed with his stance to quit the party, the spokesman said: “I wouldn’t characterise it that way at all.

“What I would say is that this is obviously an issue where we know people have strong feelings, and it’s for individuals to make their own decisions in these circumstances.

“What we have done is set out clearly what is the Labour front bench position on all of this, that’s why we have taken the time to engage with Labour representatives at all levels, to be able to have that conversation.“

Sir Keir’s chief of staff, Sue Gray, and shadow foreign secretary David Lammy held urgent talks with council leaders on Monday night amid fears over further pending resignations.

A source in the Labour leader’s office confirmed a meeting had been held with elected representatives where “emotion and strong views” were expressed but said they “did not recognise” reports it had been “heated.”

Meanwhile, MPs on Labour’s left called for an immediate ceasefire in a parliamentary early day motion.

Former shadow cabinet minister Richard Burgon, secretary of the Socialist Campaign Group, said: “Preventing the death of any more civilians must be our top priority.

“That means we need an immediate ceasefire.

“The UN General Secretary has called for this.

“It is crucial that political leaders across the world, including our own, back that call to avoid the loss of any more civilian lives.”

The Labour spokesman said Sir Keir had “repeatedly said that Israel has the right to defend itself and the right to act to retrieve hostages”.