In February, Labour put forward a motion to Parliament calling for an immediate humanitarian ceasefire to stop the fighting on both sides, release all hostages and surge humanitarian aid into Gaza.

Three months have now passed, and ceasefire negotiations appear to be going backwards. Today the war is not just continuing but escalating.

Labour has been clear for months that we oppose any offensive in Rafah, and it must not go ahead. It risks catastrophic consequences.

The United States has said that it would be a disaster, the European Union has said that the world must prevent it, and the United Nations Security Council has called for an immediate ceasefire.

Benjamin Netanyahu has ignored and continues to ignore, multiple warnings. This is a moment for the UK Government to stand up and use its relationship with the Israeli government to prevent disaster.

We are already seeing the consequences for civilians: airstrikes in densely packed areas, the Rafah crossing, as well as Kerem Shalom, shamelessly attacked by Hamas – now closed; aid being blocked and northern Gaza in full-blown famine.

Labour has consistently called on the UK Government restore funding to UNWRA so that its vital work is not disrupted. It is shocking that the UK is one of the last major donors yet to restore funding. Aid must be able to be transported safely with the opening of more land borders, the use of Ashdod Port and UK air drops. This couldn’t be more urgent.

Some 1.4 million people are sheltering in Rafah, many of them ordered to go there by the IDF in the first place. Half the children in Gaza are in Rafah. Now they have been ordered to leave. Where can they go to be safe?

International law prohibits the forced displacement of civilian populations. There has to be accountability for how this war is being conducted, which is why Labour has called for the implementation of the International Court of Justice’s provisional measures and supported the role of the International Criminal Court.

The French Government has said that the forced displacement of any civilian population is a war crime. Hamas are a terrorist organisation and their cowardly tactics are reprehensible, but that does not change Israel’s obligation to follow the rules of war or the UK Government’s obligations on arms exports.

Labour has been opposed to an Israeli offensive in Rafah for months and has been clear it must not go ahead. This was part of Labour’s motion that passed the House of Commons in February, and it is one of the reasons we have been calling on David Cameron to publish a summary of the legal advice the Government has received, with regards to arms sales from the UK to Israel.

The UK Government must explain and justify why it thinks that Netanyahu’s attack on Rafah does not present a clear risk of a serious breach of international humanitarian law. It must also confirm whether any assessment or policy advice has been received from Foreign Office officials, that this threshold has already been met.

President Biden is correct to tell Prime Minister Netanyahu that the U.S. will not supply weapons that could be used in a Rafah offensive, if Israel proceeds with a full-scale attack on Rafah against the international community’s warnings. The United States has been clear it will continue to supply weapons that allow Israel to defend itself.

Now more than ever, we need an immediate ceasefire, the release of all hostages and substantial unimpeded aid to Gaza.

We are not part of negotiations, but now is a moment for the international community to ramp up diplomatic pressure to bring the fighting to an end.

The UN Security Council has passed a resolution demanding all this. We want that to be implemented now.

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