Sir Keir Starmer has rejected demands to call for a ceasefire in Gaza, saying that to do so would only embolden Hamas and risk another October 7 attack.

Instead, he said a humanitarian pause in hostilities was the “only credible approach”.

First Minister Humza Yousaf said the Labour's leader approach would "only temporarily stop the killing of children."

He added that not calling for a ceasefire was an acceptance that "thousands more civilians will be killed."

Ahead of the speech, a number of protesters gathered outside. They mobbed the politician's car as he attempted to leave. 

READ MORE: Pressure on Starmer as Sarwar calls for ceasefire in Gaza

Sir Keir's position has come under pressure in recent days, with dozens of his MPs, and a number of senior figures in the party, including frontbenchers and Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar, urging him to demand an end to hostilities.

The Herald:

The Labour leader insisted there was “unity” in his party over the need to alleviate suffering in the Palestinian enclave as Israel’s ferocious retaliation for the brutal terrorist atrocity continues.

Sir Keir said while he understood calls for a ceasefire he did not believe it was “the correct position now”.

He said the government’s push for “humanitarian pauses” in the fighting was the right approach.

Sir Keir said: “A ceasefire always freezes any conflict in the state where it currently lives. And as we speak, that would leave Hamas with the infrastructure and the capability to carry out the sort of attack we saw on October 7, attacks that are still ongoing, hostages, who should be released, still held.

“Hamas would be emboldened and start preparing for future violence immediately.

He said the call for pauses in the fighting for clear and specific humanitarian purposes was "right in practice, as well as principle."

“In fact, it is, at this moment, the only credible approach that has any chance of achieving what we all want to see in Gaza: the urgent alleviation of Palestinian suffering, aid distributed quickly, space to get hostages out.”

Answering questions from journalists, Sir Keir was asked about how he would bring the party back together again, given the splits over his position.

“On the key issues, there's unity in trying to bring about an alleviation of the awful situation in Gaza. So nobody in the Labour Party is making any other case than we have got to alleviate the suffering.

"We have got to speak out for Israel's right to self-defence, and we've got to alleviate the suffering. So there's complete unity on that.

“There is also unity, not just on the short term, but what is the long term answer to this, and that is the two-state solution.

"We had a united affirmation of our policy in July of this year that the two-state solution is the only way forward. So we're not tearing the party apart. There's unity on that.

"There are differences of view on how you achieve that. And that's why I say I understand why people argue for a ceasefire, but I do not think that is the right argument at this time."

READ MORE: Humza Yousaf: Family in Gaza reduced to drinking seawater

Asked about collective responsibility and if that meant frontbenchers calling for a ceasefire would be sacked, Sir Keir dodged the question.

“On the question of collective responsibility, of course, that matters. It is my responsibility to handle that within our party. And I take that responsibility seriously.

“But as I say, there is unity in the desired end that everybody in the Labour Party wants, which is to alleviate the suffering that we can all see, talk about, hear about and listen to."

Sir Keir has come under fire over an interview for LBC earlier this month when he seemed to suggest Israel had the right to cut off Gaza's power and water. 

He later attempted to clarify the remarks, insisting he had been talking about Israel's right to defend itself, and was not endorsing the collective punishment of Gazans.

Speaking to the Daily Record on Tuesday, Mr Sarwar said the comments were “hurtful” to Muslim communities.

He said: “It was hurtful and I think he would accept it was hurtful. He accepts that it is not his position and it never was his position. But (that) language, framed as it was, did cause hurt.”

He went on to say that the comments could have been clarified and “rebuffed” sooner.

On the relationship with Muslim members of the party, Mr Sarwar said there is “repair work to do” to restore “that trust and relationship”.

The Herald:

During the question and answer session with journalists, Sir Keir was told that there was a perception in the Muslim world "that the West does not care for Palestinian life" and that a "Palestinian life is worth less than the Israeli one."

"Each life matters," Sir Keir replied. "Each life is equal. And I don't look at an image of an Israeli child dead, or a Palestinian child dead and distinguish between the two.

"I've got children. Many people will feel this as a human emotion. Each of those pains me and I think, pains equally, the vast majority of people in this country, and we have to be absolutely clear that each life is valued equally, and the loss of any single, innocent civilian life is equally valued, and equally impactful in our response. "

READ MORE: Israel-Gaza war: Sunak to chair Cobra meeting on domestic threat

On Monday, Labour MP Andy McDonald was suspended by for using the phrase “between the river and the sea”, which a spokesman for the party described as “deeply offensive”.

“From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free” is regarded as an antisemitic slogan by a number of Jewish organisations, as it calls for the erasure of the State of Israel and its people. 

Mr McDonald, however, said the reference was part of a “heartfelt plea” for peace in the Middle East, with a video he posted on X – formerly Twitter – showing he said: “We will not rest until we have justice.

“Until all people, Israelis and Palestinians, between the river and the sea, can live in peaceful liberty.”

Sir Keir was asked what the "red lines" for his MPs were. 

"I think every Labour MP, every politician, whichever party they're in, and at whatever level they are a politician, wherever they are a representative, has to be extremely careful about the language that they use and should be extremely careful about the language that they use. 

"And I would expect that of all Labour MPs. I'm not going to comment on the particular case of Andy McDonald, because it's subject to a process which is going to have to independently come to a conclusion." 

Responding to Sir Keir's speech, Mr Yousaf said: "Keir Starmer's stance lacks moral courage & leadership. A humanitarian pause will only temporarily stop the killing of children, over 3000 have already reportedly been killed in Gaza.

"We need a ceasefire now. Otherwise, we are accepting thousands more civilians will be killed."