Councillors sign letter calling for Gaza ceasefire

Council deputy leader Ahsan Khan and Cllr Shabana Dhedhi signed a letter which calls on Labour to push for an immediate ceasefire, reports Josh Mellor, Local Democracy Reporter

Cllr Khan and Cllr Dhedhi, Credit: Waltham Forest Council

Two Waltham Forest Labour councillors have joined hundreds of their colleagues across the country in calling on their party’s leader Keir Starmer to support a ceasefire in Gaza.

Waltham Forest deputy leader Ahsan Khan and Lea Bridge councillor Shabana Dhedhi are part of a group of more than 250 Labour councillors demanding that their party calls for an “immediate ceasefire in Gaza to end the humanitarian disaster”.

The move reflects growing tension in the party over leader Keir Starmer’s response to the humanitarian crisis in Gaza after he appeared to support Israel cutting off supplies to the Palestinian territory in retaliation for the 7th October Hamas attacks.

He later attempted to clarify this by arguing that he was only saying that Israel has a right to self-defence.

In a letter published by the Labour Muslim Councillors Network on 25th October, the group told Starmer that failing to push for a ceasefire means hundreds of Gazans “pay the price”.

The letter reads: “Without an immediate ceasefire, UN agencies, NGOs and charities have made it clear that much needed aid will not reach pregnant women, children, critically ill patients and those others that will simply be left to die.

“As Labour councillors elected to serve our constituents, the message we have been hearing repeatedly over the past two weeks is simple, people just want an end to the bloodshed and the loss of innocent life.

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“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.”

Last week, MPs, peers and councillors were “strongly advised” not to attend any pro-Palestine marches, which frustrated Labour members who wanted to show solidarity to innocent civilians in Palestine.

A number of Labour councillors from across London boroughs such as Redbridge, Newham, Hackney and Harrow have all signed the letter while more than 20 councillors have resigned.

However, the Labour leader has resisted calling for a ceasefire and is instead pushing for a “humanitarian pause”.

When approached for comment by the Local Democracy Reporting Service, Cllr Dhedhi declined to comment and Cllr Khan did not respond.

Waltham Forest Labour said: “We urge the Government to do everything it can to put an end to the immediate violence in Israel
and Gaza – to ensure that hostages are returned home safety, to restore humanitarian access to Gaza and to uphold international law.

“Waltham Forest has a proud history of standing together against hate and in times of crisis. All of our Labour councillors are focused on serving our community and working to ensure everyone feels safe and supported.”

A spokesman for Starmer said: “We fully recognise that Israel has a right to defend itself, to go after the hostages and to act in accordance with humanitarian law in that process.

“What we have also said is that we need to ensure that there is protection of civilian life, that we ensure all necessary aid supplies can get into Gaza and reach people who need them, and that continues to be our position.”

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