I have been totally horrified by news of the killing of World Central Kitchen aid workers in an Israeli air strike as well as reports of the death of British nationals. I fully condemn this strike and there must be a full investigation and those responsible must be held to account.

In the wake of this news, it is more important than ever that the UK Government publishes its legal advice on arms licensing and sales to Israel and suspends the sale of those arms. Shadow Foreign Secretary, David Lammy has again released a statement  pushing the Government on this and will be questioning them as soon as Parliament returns from recess next week, see here.

As you will know, the UN Security Council passed a resolution for an immediate ceasefire, immediate release of hostages and full humanitarian access in Gaza.

This has been an incredibly vital and welcome step in the process towards ending the current crisis, and it must now be a turning point and the resolution should be implemented in full if we are to see the immediate ceasefire that is so badly needed. Israel must not be allowed to go ahead with its ground assault in Rafah and unfetter aid must be allowed into Gaza as an immediate priority to avert from the famine that is killing Gazans.

To date, Israel has not complied with the ICJ’s order of provisional measures to prevent acts of genocide and to take “immediate and effective measures to enable the provision of urgently needed basic services and humanitarian assistance to address the adverse conditions of life faced by Palestinians in the Gaza Strip”.  We have consistently said that international law needs to be abided by and the recommendations for the ICJ is international law so has to be upheld.

The unconditional, immediate release of all hostages being held by Hamas is linked in the UN resolution to a related issue that has received less attention: the inability of the ICRC to obtain access to those held by Hamas and Israel since 7 October. This is a grave breach of human rights conventions to which Israel is a signatory. For its part, as an organised political/military force, Hamas is bound by the Geneva Conventions to allow access to those persons it is holding, to ensure their safety and wellbeing.

The conditions of both the ICJ ruling and the UN resolution are very much in line with the Labour motion on an immediate ceasefire that passed the House of Commons last month and is the will of parliament as a result.

To back up its words with action, and demonstrate that the UK is serious in wanting to bring this war to an immediate end, our government must now:

  • Release all legal advice it has on arms sales to Israel and, in line with the UK’s Licensing Criteria and the International Arms Trade Treaty, immediately suspend the export of military equipment to Israel because of the clear risk it will be used to commit or facilitate serious breaches of International Law and International Humanitarian Law if no ceasefire is implemented;
  • Inform Israel of practical consequences for bilateral relations if it continues to place unreasonable obstacles in the way of the delivery of unfettered and unincumbered humanitarian aid;
  • Publicly reject concerted pressure by Israel to bring the work of UNRWA to a halt and provide the Agency with renewed financial support: to ensure it can continue its invaluable work throughout the region – not only in the Gaza Strip – until such time as the Palestinian refugee issue is definitively resolved; and
  • Work with the Arab Group and other partners on the Security Council to pass a binding follow-up resolution that will come into effect after the end of Ramadan on 9 April, when the ceasefire ordered yesterday by the UN is due to expire.

The welcome news from the UN in New York was a good start but it is absolutely not enough and it is clear that it is not being upheld nor implemented in full by either side in this conflict. 

All those of good conscience in the UK and around the world horrified by this dreadful war must press their governments to demand decisive action on the ground to end the suffering. Innocent civilians have already paid too high a price.

I believe that the UK Government must now apply all the diplomatic pressure it can to ensure this all can happen.

Following news of the resolution, Shadow Foreign Secretary, David Lammy MP met with Ambassador of the State of Palestine, Husam Zumlot to discuss how the UK can apply diplomatic pressure to secure a ceasefire, see here.

While no one expected this would be the case, the ceasefire motion that was passed by Labour MPs in February was able to shape UK foreign policy by pushing our Ambassador to the UN to vote in favour of the resolution in New York last night. 

At a time when we’re all feeling so powerless, I feel assured of my party and I’s course of action over this issue that we were able to use the processes available to us in Parliament to affect some form of change and move one, small step further to securing a ceasefire for the people of Gaza.

Our motion is copied in the below paragraphs for your information.

Let us not stray from the most pressing issue however, this is a humanitarian catastrophe of enormous proportions. More people are now dying from medical need, thirst and hunger than from bombs and bullets – this is an indisputable form of warfare.

David Lammy, Shadow Foreign Secretary has secured weekly debates since November to press the Minister of State on the humanitarian situation (of course we can’t question he Foreign Secretary directly), particularly the famine that has taken hold, on two occasions.

He has said: 

Yesterday, a UN-backed report revealed the shocking reality that famine in Gaza is imminent. Half the population is expected to face catastrophic levels of hunger—the highest number of people ever recorded as being in that category under this system. Only twice in 20 years have famine conditions been reached, but what distinguishes the horror in Gaza from what has come before is that it is not driven by drought or natural disaster; it is man-made. It is the consequence of war. It is the consequence of aid that is available not reaching those who need it. Food is piled up in trucks just a few kilometres away, while children in Gaza are starving. It is unbearable, and it must not go on.

International law is clear: Israel has an obligation to ensure the provision of aid. The binding measures ordered by the International Court of Justice require it. The world has demanded it for months, yet still aid flows are woefully inadequate. Aid actually fell by half between January and February. That is outrageous. The continued restrictions on aid flows are completely unacceptable, and must stop now—just as Hamas must release the hostages now. I do not doubt that the Minister agrees with me, but will he have the courage to say that the ICJ’s orders, including on aid, are binding, and that Israel must comply with them? Do the lawyers at the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office believe that Israel is currently in compliance with its obligations?

Amid this accelerating hunger crisis, Prime Minister Netanyahu reportedly approved plans for an offensive against Rafah. That would risk catastrophic humanitarian consequences. It would be a disaster for civilians and a strategic mistake. How is the Government working to prevent a further attack on Rafah? The truth is this: it will not be possible to address the crisis in Gaza if the fighting does not stop—and that is also the best way to secure the release of hostages. Will the Government finally join us and dozens of countries, and call for an immediate humanitarian ceasefire?” 

You can watch him press Andrew Mitchell here. For further debate footage watch here.

Below are the questions the Labour Party have been pressing the Minister of State, Andrew Mitchell on since the resolution was passed on our motion in Parliament and at the UN:

  • The UN Security Council’s call for an immediate ceasefire, the immediate release of all hostages and full humanitarian access in Gaza could not be more necessary. The resolution must now be implemented in full. What steps is the government taking to play its part in applying diplomatic pressure to make it happen?
  • The UN Security Council’s call for an immediate ceasefire, the immediate release of all hostages and full humanitarian access in Gaza could not be more necessary. Last month the government had the chance to vote for Labour’s motion calling for an immediate humanitarian ceasefire, so all of parliament could speak with one voice. Why didn’t it?
  • Israel has the right under international law to check aid flowing into Gaza but not to stop prevent it wholesale. Too little aid is getting in at the moment, with checks slowing progress. Has the Minister spoken to the Israeli government about using a neutral humanitarian organisation to speed up these checks, and to facilitate the opening of more land routes?
  • Aid agencies have reported that the list of good allowed by the Israeli government into Gaza is difficult to access and can change without warning. Will the Minister put pressure on the Israeli government to publish an official list, and ensure that this list contains the necessary nutritional and medical aid needed to treat starvation?
  • Aid needs to get into Gaza, but critically it needs to be distributed. UNRWA is unmatched in its administrative ability to distribute aid. With just a few weeks until the new financial year, can the Minister tell us if UK funding to UNRWA will resume?
  • For any ceasefire, both sides must agree to comply. The most recent compromise deal was reportedly rejected by Hamas. What steps is the government taking to apply pressure to Hamas as well as Israel to agree an immediate ceasefire now?
  • It is beyond appalling that there remain dozens of hostages still chained by Hamas terrorists since October 7th. Hamas must release them all immediately. What hope does the Minister have that this will happen in the coming weeks?



The International Court of Justice’s (ICJ) interim ruling under the Genocide Convention on the situation in Gaza is a profoundly serious moment. Labour has been clear throughout the conflict that international law must be upheld, that the independence of international courts must be respected, and that all sides must be accountable for their actions. The ICJ’s interim ruling does not give a verdict on this case, but it sets out urgent provisional measures that must be followed.

Israel must now comply with the orders in this ruling in full.

It’s important to remember that the ICJ’s ruling on whether Israel has committed genocide could take years but the interim ruling does say that Israel’s military operation in Gaza: “had resulted in a large number of deaths and injuries, as well as the massive destruction of homes, the forcible displacement of the vast majority of the population, and extensive damage to civilian infrastructure”

Labour has been clear that Israel must comply with the orders in the ruling in full, and Hamas terrorists must release all the hostages immediately, but it has not gone unnoticed that the Foreign Secretary made no statement. The only response that appeared was from a nameless spokesperson the day after the judgement that claimed that the Government respects the role and independence of the ICJ but stated that they had “considerable concerns about this case”. 

The ICJ’s measures align closely with Labour’s long standing calls for the protection of civilians, urgent humanitarian relief in Gaza and an end to extremist rhetoric. We will press for these orders to be implemented.

Thousands of Palestinian civilians have been killed in Israel’s campaign, 1.7 million have been displaced and unacceptable blocks on supplies of essential aid are causing a humanitarian catastrophe. Meanwhile Hamas continues to hold hostages and fire rockets into Israel. Civilians must be protected, a humanitarian surge must be allowed into Gaza and all hostages must be released immediately. I await the full conclusions of the ICJ with interest.

Here is the motion we passed last month:

“I beg to move amendment (a), to leave out from “House” to end and add

“believes that an Israeli ground offensive in Rafah risks catastrophic humanitarian consequences and therefore must not take place; notes the intolerable loss of Palestinian life, the majority being women and children; condemns the terrorism of Hamas who continue to hold hostages; supports Australia, Canada and New Zealand’s calls for Hamas to release and return all hostages and for an immediate humanitarian ceasefire, which means an immediate stop to the fighting and a ceasefire that lasts and is observed by all sides, noting that Israel cannot be expected to cease fighting if Hamas continues with violence and that Israelis have the right to the assurance that the horror of 7 October 2023 cannot happen again; therefore supports diplomatic mediation efforts to achieve a lasting ceasefire; demands that rapid and unimpeded humanitarian relief is provided in Gaza; further demands an end to settlement expansion and violence; urges Israel to comply with the International Court of Justice’s provisional measures; calls for the UN Security Council to meet urgently; and urges all international partners to work together to establish a diplomatic process to deliver the peace of a two-state solution, with a safe and secure Israel alongside a viable Palestinian state, including working with international partners to recognise a Palestinian state as a contribution to rather than outcome of that process, because statehood is the inalienable right of the Palestinian people and not in the gift of any neighbour.”

During the debate on 21st February our Shadow Foreign Secretary said: 

“That is why in Labour’s motion, we talk about compliance with the International Court of Justice’s rulings and international law as we’ve said from Day 1 international law must be adhered to and if the court speaks we should abide by it. The court has spoken so Israel must comply.”



I have been absolutely unequivocal that UNRWA funding cannot be undermined. My colleague, Shadow International Development Secretary, Lisa Nandy MP, has been working with UNRWA head, Phillipe Lazzarini so there is no disruption to their funding and the work they are doing on the ground that is so vitally important.

The agency is critical to delivering humanitarian assistance into Gaza and across the region. It plays a stabilising role at a time when we need to focus on de-escalating tensions.

You can read Lisa Nandy’s letter to Andrew Mitchell, calling for UNRWA funding to be reinstated as well as asking for him to support an immediate humanitarian ceasefire: https://twitter.com/lisanandy/status/1766072224979562994 


Arms trade

For the emails that are asking me to sign the EDMs I’m unable to do so by parliamentary rules as they are the preserve of the backbenches. 

My Labour colleagues and I have raised concerns about arms exports to Israel both before and during the current conflict between Israel and Hamas. Ministers have responded to such concerns by referencing the UK’s Strategic Export Licensing System that was announced in December 2021, this system has and will continue to lessen transparency over arms exports and could see UK arms being used against civilians, which is of course the very real concern right now. These criteria reflect, among other things, the UK’s obligations under international law, and the potential for the goods to be used in the violation of human rights (for example, torture). The criteria is indeed correct but doesn’t not determine what is oppression etc. and that is the issue here. 

I’m glad the International Criminal Court is now involved in Gaza and Israel as it will be able to determine the use of arms for purposes that are against any licensing criteria.

The consolidated criteria that the Committee for Arms and Export Controls uses is only as robust, though, as the implementation of the licensing system. It is correct for the UK Government to claim that we have one of the strictest licensing systems in the world but that misses the point as it is only robust if it is implemented properly and it isn’t yet Government responses to oral and written questions, often refer to the criteria used when assessing licence applications.

On 20 November 2023, the Secretary of State for Defence, Grant Shapps, said that UK “defence exports to Israel are relatively small—just £42 million last year” but there have been long-standing concerns between the frontbench regarding arms exports to Israel. For example, Early Day Motion 1305, signed by 73 MPs in 2018 including members of our current frontbench, cited a risk that UK arms to Israel might “be used for internal repression or in the commission of a serious violation of international humanitarian law” and may “adversely affect regional stability”.

David Lammy wrote to the Foreign Secretary on 22 March demanding the government releases its legal advice on arms sales to Israel and the recent leak of said legal advice that there was a question to answer about those arms being used to breach international law means action has to be taken. David Lammy’s letter is here and can also be found in The Guardian.

The Government claims: itakes its defence export responsibilities extremely seriously and operates some of the most robust export controls in the world; that all applications for export licences are assessed on a case-by-case basis against strict criteria; they will not issue a licence if there is a clear risk that the equipment might be used for internal repression; they continue to monitor closely the situation in Israel and the OPTs [Occupied Palestinian Territories] and if extant licences are found to be no longer consistent with the criteria, those licences will be revoked.

It is all well and good saying it but what is happening in practice seems to be contrary to this stated aim by the UK government.

As some background, in 2014 the Coalition Government reviewed export licences granted to Israel following the outbreak of hostilities between Israel and Hamas and other armed groups in Gaza previously. The Government said the review found the vast majority of exported currently licensed for Israel are “not for items that could be used by Israeli forces in operations in Gaza in response to attacks by Hamas.” However, the Government did suspend twelve licences for components which could be part of equipment used by the Israeli Defence Forces in Gaza. This review must be repeated.

The Government has failed to address serious weaknesses in our arms export regime and a Labour government would establish a new arms export regime that is truly transparent, free from arbitrary judgements and committed to upholding international law. Keir Starmer committed to this and said he would have fully reviewed all arms sals to Israel by now on 14 January in his interview with Laura Kuenssberg on BBC1.

I sat on the Committee on Arms and Export Control from 2016-2019 as a member of the Foreign Affairs Committee and it was clear that the regime was strict but government implementation was poor and that was always a great frustration to the Committee who were trying to do the job of ensuring there were no sales to Israel of any item that could be used in oppressing their neighbours but, in practice, it was never clear if the government implemented these decisions fully.

I completely and wholeheartedly agree with charities such as Oxfam who have warned that the situation is catastrophic. 

Beyond all the current efforts to end the violence and while the two-state solution may seem further away than ever, it is essential we do not lose sight of it. For far too long we have paid lip service to the notion of a two-state solution, and the world has failed to get the Palestinian people any closer to a sovereign state to call home. Peace must be more than just something we all hope for – it must become a reality for Palestinians and Israelis.

You can find my response for March 2024 here.

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