Khan call to ban arms sales to Israel stokes rift with Starmer

Sadiq Khan
Sadiq Khan says weapons shipments should be halted immediately - Toby Melville/Reuters

Sadiq Khan opened up a fresh rift with Sir Keir Starmer on Monday as he defied the Labour leader to call for a ban on arms sales to Israel.

The Mayor of London said weapons shipments should be halted immediately following Israeli strikes in Rafah which reportedly killed dozens.

More than half a dozen backbench MPs echoed his call, heaping pressure on the Labour leader who has faced dissent over his stance on Gaza.

Mr Khan said: “Devastating and heartbreaking scenes in Rafah following yet another Israeli attack – in flagrant breach of the International Court of Justice ruling and international law.

“Our own government’s lack of leadership is beyond shameful.

“They must finally halt arms sales and put real pressure on to end this horror.”

His intervention once more revealed the deep-rooted splits within Labour over Gaza which threaten to dog Sir Keir’s general election campaign.

The Labour leader has come under huge pressure to toughen his stance towards Israel after the party haemorrhaged Muslim votes at the local elections.

More than half a dozen MPs, including senior figures on the Left, stepped up their calls for an arms embargo in light of the latest Rafah strikes.

Richard Burgon, a former shadow cabinet minister, said: “Our government must not stand by while Israel ignores the World Court. It must act. Starting by ending arms sales to Israel.”

Sarah Owen, who quit a shadow ministerial role last November as part of a rebellion against Sir Keir over his refusal to call for a ceasefire, added her voice.

“Many of us have argued that continuing arm sales to Netanyahu against civilians in so called ‘safe zones’ needs to be halted. This is why,” she said.

Earlier in May, David Lammy, the shadow foreign secretary, inched the party closer to calling for an arms embargo over the scenes in Rafah.

In a Commons question to Andrew Mitchell, the deputy foreign secretary, he suggested Israel had breached international humanitarian law.

That would mean that legal advice which advised against arms sales kicked in, he said.

But Labour has now openly called for such a ban, instead largely echoing the Government line that UK arms sales to Israel are a tiny proportion.

Sir Keir is under pressure to go further as MPs in seats with larger Muslim populations face a battle to get elected against independent pro-Palestine candidates.

They include frontbench figures such as Wes Streeting, the shadow health secretary, and Shabana Mahmood, the shadow justice secretary.

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