The Labour leadership is understood to have held an 'urgent' meeting with councillors after a number of resignations over the party’s messaging on the conflict in the Middle East.

It comes after Shaista Aziz and Amar Latif, of Oxford City Council, resigned following a comment made last week by Keir Starmer in which the Labour leader stated Israel ‘has the right’ to withhold power and water from Gaza.

Mr Starmer made the comment on LBC on Wednesday speaking to host Nick Ferrari.

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Sir Keir’s comment came after the deadliest attack on Israel in decades and a subsequent intense Israeli bombing campaign of Palestinians, with an ensuing warning that 1.1 million people in north Gaza would need to leave their homes.

Oxford Mail: Cllr Aziz resigned along with Cllr LatifCllr Aziz resigned along with Cllr Latif (Image: Contribution)

Oxford Mail: Dr Amar LatifDr Amar Latif

Dr Latif and Ms Aziz both stepped down and will now run as Independents in Oxford.

Ms Aziz, who has served the Cowley ward since 2021, said: “Like all decent minded people we are devastated by the atrocities carried out by Hamas in Israel.

“However, we are appalled by the words of Keir Starmer.

“We know this weekend is crucial and there is likely to be an invasion of Gaza.

“This is not ok. It contravenes international law.

“We believe that politicians need to be evoking humanity and calling for an end to collective punishment in Gaza.”

Councillor Dr Amar Latif, of the Cowley Ward, commented: "We're obviously upset and appalled by the violence on both sides including the innocent killing of Israelis and Palestinian civilians.

"Though it's unfortunate that the Labour leadership hasn't been in a position to condemn the blockade in Gaza."

Elsewhere, Amna Abdullatif, a councillor in Ardwick in Manchester since 2019, said on Monday (October 16) she would quit Labour after Sir Keir Starmer made “horrifying comments about Israel having the right to withhold fuel, water, food and electricity from the 2.2 million Palestinians trapped in Gaza, effectively endorsing a war crime”.

ITV News reported Sir Keir’s chief of staff, Sue Gray, and shadow foreign secretary David Lammy held urgent talks with council leaders on Monday night amid fears over pending resignations.

Oxford Mail: Sir Keir StarmerSir Keir Starmer (Image: PA)

A source in the Labour leader’s office confirmed a meeting had been held with elected representatives where “emotion and strong views” were expressed but said they “did not recognise” reports it had been “heated.”

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“The meeting was one of a series with elected representatives, as you would imagine from a serious grown up government-in-waiting on such a difficult and sensitive issue,” they said.

“Of course there was emotion and strong views but that is what you would expect.

“It was acknowledged that councillors are on the front line dealing with some difficult circumstances.

“Support was offered, and our position made clear."