A Labour MP has apologies in the Commons for describing the Israeli government as “fascist.”

Liverpool's Kim Johnson was criticised by Sir Keir Starmer’s spokesman over the comments during Prime Minister’s Questions.

She was told by the Labour leader's office to withdraw the remarks.

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Her question to Rishi Sunak was on the surge in Israeli-Palestinian violence in the weeks since Benjamin Netanyahu was sworn in as leader of a right-wing and religiously conservative coalition government.

More than 30 Palestinians have been killed in the territory in January, mostly during Israeli military raids. In Jerusalem, a Palestinian attacker shot dead seven civilians outside a synagogue on Friday night — the worst attack in the city since 2008.

There are fears of further escalation.

During PMQs on Wednesday, Ms Johnson said: “Since the election of the fascist Israeli government in December last year, there has been an increase in human rights violations against Palestinian civilians, including children.”

She added: “Can the Prime Minister tell us how he is challenging what Amnesty and other human rights organisations are referring to as an apartheid state?”

Mr Sunak replied: “She also failed to mention the horrific attacks on civilians inside Israel as well.

“It is important in this matter to remain calm and urge all sides to strive for peace, and that is very much what I will do as Prime Minister and in the conversations that I have had with the Israeli prime minister.”

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After the session, the Prime Minister’s spokesman was asked whether Ms Johnson’s language had been appropriate.

The official replied: “No, that’s certainly not the UK Government’s position. The Prime Minister highlighted that the killing of innocent civilians…

“The important thing, as the Prime Minister said, is for people to remain calm and to use moderate language and take an appropriate and considered approach in dealing with what is a very difficult issue.”

Sir Keir’s spokesman denounced the use of both the terms “apartheid” and “fascist”, saying many will have taken offence at the latter in particular.

He told reporters: “As a first step we would obviously want her to withdraw the remarks that she used for sure.”

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Ms Johnson returned to the Commons around two hours later to apologise.

She said: “I would like to apologise unreservedly for the intemperate language I used during PMQs.

“I was wrong to use the term ‘fascist’ in relation to the Israeli government and understand why this was particularly insensitive given the history of the state of Israel.

“While there are far-right elements in the government, I recognise the use of the term in this context was wrong.

“I would also like to apologise for the use of the term ‘apartheid state’.

“While I was quoting accurately Amnesty’s description, I recognise this is insensitive and I would like to withdraw it.”

Labour MP Dame Margaret Hodge called Ms Johnson’s language “unacceptable and dangerous."

"With violence escalating in recent weeks, this careless remark only makes it harder to bridge the divide."