Humza Yousaf has called on Rishi Sunak and the UK Government to “recognise the state of Palestine” as he renewed his plea for an “immediate ceasefire” to halt killings in the Israel-Gaza conflict.

The First Minister penned a letter to the Prime Minister ahead of a Holyrood debate on the Middle East crisis, with MSPs poised to back an immediate ceasefire.

The FM has also written to Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer, who has received vast criticism from within his party for refusing to back a ceasefire, calling on him to support his calls for a state of Palestine to be recognised by the UK Government.

The Herald: UK Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer and Anas SarwarUK Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer and Anas Sarwar

Sir Keir has had further internal pressure piled on him after Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar used the Holyrood debate to accuse the Israeli prime minister of having "no interest in peace" and his government of breaching international law over the humanitarian crisis. 

It comes after dozens of Labour MPs voted against the party whip at Westminster by supporting an SNP motion in the Commons calling for a ceasefire, with several frontbenchers resigning their positions.

Mr Yousaf’s motion to Holyrood and his letter to Mr Sunak condemns the Hamas atrocities last month, calls for the release of the hostages and for all parties to agree to an immediate ceasefire.

MSPs backed an immediate ceasefire, as well as a Scottish Labour amendment which called for the International Criminal Court to investigate the conflict’s conduct. 

In his letter to Mr Sunak, the SNP leader pointed to the “already dire humanitarian situation in Gaza continues to deteriorate”.

Read more: Humza Yousaf: MPs who refused to back ceasefire in Gaza 'unforgivable'

He added: “An immediate ceasefire is the only way in which the killing and suffering of innocent civilians can be brought to an end. I again call upon you to support an immediate ceasefire.

Read more: Humza Yousaf: Mother-in-law breaks silence on Gaza ordeal

“Following the forced evacuation of the population from the north of Gaza, it reinforces the impression that what we are witnessing is the gradual, but deliberate, expulsion of Palestinians from the entire territory.

“This, of course, would likely be a breach of international law.”

The First Minister has told the Prime Minister that “the international community cannot allow this to happen”.

He said: “It is essential and urgent that the UK makes clear to the Israeli Government, and to the world, that in line with support for a two-state solution, only Palestinians can have authority in Gaza.

“Of course, that authority must be exercised in a way that ensures the people of Israel, as well as Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank, are able to live in peace and security.”

Read more: Humza Yousaf: Gaza ceasefire motion to be debated at Holyrood

He added: “This would be assisted were the UK to recognise the state of Palestine within the 1967 borders, as over 130 members of the United Nations, including nine members of the European Union, have done and as the new Spanish Government has pledged.

“Recognition would offer hope to Palestinians that a just and durable political solution is possible. It would make it plain to the Israeli Government that a military solution is illusory and the expulsion of Palestinians from Gaza is unacceptable.

“I urge you to show the international leadership you claim for the UK by calling for an immediate ceasefire by all sides, and by announcing the UK Government’s recognition of the state of Palestine.”

Setting out his motion to Holyrood, the First Minister told MSPs that "both Israelis and Palestinians have the right to live in peace and security".

Mr Yousaf stressed that "collective punishment cannot be justified", as he warned that "the suffering in Gaza has shaken the world".

He added: "The Scottish Government supports the International Criminal Court investigating reports of any potential breaches of international law.

"I have written to the UK Government urging them to back the ICC in its investigation of war crimes being committed by any party during this conflict."

Sarwar claims Israeli PM has 'no interest in peace'

The Scottish Labour leader told Holyrood that "at times, it's felt as if humanity is dying before our very eyes" as the horrors of the conflict has unfolded.

Mr Sarwar criticised the Israeli government, creating more pressure on Labour's UK leader to take a different stance on the conflict as he confirmed his party will support "an immediate ceasefire in the Middle East".

As he criticised the Israeli government, Mr Sarwar stressed that "withholding such vital humanitarian aid" was "a clear breach of international law".

He said: "Hamas is not the Palestinian people, it is a terrorist organisation.

"It is also important to stress that the Israeli people is not the right-wing government of Benjamin Netanyahu either - a man I believe has no interest in peace."