UK Labour MPs visit Israel in 'show of solidarity' amid ICJ genocide case
A British parliamentary delegation visited Israel this week in what they said was a "show of solidarity" as Israel defends itself at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) over accusations of genocide in the besieged Gaza Strip.
The 'Labour Friends of Israel' delegation, led by the group’s former chair Lousie Ellman, visited the Kfar Aza kibbutz, an area hit by Hamas's surprise attack on southern Israel on 7 October.
The delegation also included the pro-Israeli group’s vice-chair Christian Wakeford MP, Margaret Hodge MP, Ruth Anderson of Stoke-on-Trent, and lay chair Adrian Cohen.
They held a meeting with Israeli President Isaac Herzog and the British ambassador to Israel Simon Walters. They also met with the British relatives of some of the hostages being held in Gaza.
Several British politicians, including Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and former prime minister Boris Johnson, have made visits to Israel since the start of the Gaza war which has killed over 23,000 Palestinians, the vast majority children and women.
Labour, the UK's biggest opposition party, has been divided on the Gaza war, with nearly a third of the party's lawmakers defying leader Keir Starmer in November and backing calls for an immediate ceasefire. Several of his frontbench team quit over the vote.
Starmer, like Sunak and US and European leaders, has called for "humanitarian pauses" to help aid reach Gaza rather than a ceasefire which Israel says would allow Hamas to regroup after its surprise October 7 attack.
That attack, Hamas says, came in response to decades of Israeli blockade of the Gaza Strip and attacks in the West Bank and Jerusalem. It killed about 1,200 people and took more than 200 others hostage, according to Israeli figures.
Some of the hostages were freed as part of a mediated truce in November, which also saw the release of Palestinian prisoners. Israel says 137 remain in Gaza.
Israel’s unprecedented bombardment of the Gaza Strip has brought utter devastation to the territory and displaced nearly all its residents.
Many countries and international organisations believe the Israeli air and ground attacks amount to genocide.
South Africa has said that Israeli leaders have explicitly declared their genocidal intent in Gaza, asking the ICJ to order provisional measures to protect Palestinians.
The United Nations' highest court held its first hearing on Thursday, in a case filed by Pretoria against Israel on 29 December, and backed by several governments around the world.
While it may take years for the ICJ to ultimately rule on whether Israel has violated the Genocide Convention, any measures ordered in the meantime could provide a lifeline for Palestinians in Gaza, where the threat of starvation and disease loom close.
In November, UK Shadow Foreign Minister David Lammy said Labour would back any International Criminal Court probes into alleged war crimes by Israel and called on all parties involved in the Gaza war to stick to international law.