19 Nov 2023

Labour leader Chris Hipkins calls for a ceasefire in Israel Gaza conflict

6:05 pm on 19 November 2023
Labour leader Chris Hipkins calls for a ceasefire in Gaza.

Labour leader Chris Hipkins calls for a ceasefire in Gaza. Photo: RNZ / Katie Scotcher

Labour Party leader Chris Hipkins has called for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza, saying "the violence and the killing has to stop".

He has stressed that he has made the announcement as Labour leader, not caretaker Prime Minister.

But Hipkins said it had become "untenable" for him to remain silent.

"It runs against Labour Party values to see the horrific scenes we are witnessing without calling for a ceasefire," he said.

"Israel and Gaza need to immediately ensure that conditions for a ceasefire be met. We call on all parties to strive to restore calm and restraint.

"We remain very concerned about the humanitarian impact of the conflict."

Hipkins has called on Israel to allow supplies to be delivered and for Hamas to free its hostages.

"Ultimately we want to see a just and lasting peace.

"The violence and the killing has to stop."

National responds

In a statement this evening, the National Party said it supported the idea of a ceasefire but also accused Hipkins of 'playing politics.'

"National supports the goal of a ceasefire, but acknowledges the conditions have not existed for one so far.

"On Friday afternoon the caretaker government approached National about calling for a ceasefire.

"In response, National asked to see MFAT advice on the matter - we provided feedback on that advice and indicated we were open to a discussion with Labour on it.

"National was then informed of the Labour leader's statement four minutes before the press conference commenced.

"Given New Zealand's long-standing bipartisan approach to foreign policy it is very disappointing that Chris Hipkins is playing politics with such a serious issue.

"If reports of a possible temporary ceasefire being close are correct, with hostage exchanges from both sides and humanitarian aid into Gaza, this is what New Zealand has consistently called for. It is hoped that any temporary ceasefire could last longer than five days and lead to peace talks," National's statement concluded.

Israel has vowed to annihilate the Hamas militant group that controls Gaza, since its fighters killed 1200 people and dragged away 240 hostages on a deadly rampage on 7 October.

Since then, Israel has bombed much of Gaza to rubble.

Gaza authorities say more than 12,000 people are confirmed dead, 5000 of them children, with many others trapped under rubble.

"Ultimately, we want to see a just and lasting peace that recognises the existence and self-determination of Israelis and Palestinians," said Hipkins.

"We encourage the parties to work towards a two-state solution within secure and recognised borders where all citizens enjoy equal rights and freedoms."

Israel had a right to defend itself, "but that right is not unlimited", Hipkins said.

"Hospitals should never be used for military purposes, but neither should hospitals be attacked," he said of the current action against hospitals in Gaza.

"Experience would suggest that militarily trying to eradicate terrorist organisations isn't a route to success."

The caretaker government had sought agreement from the opposition before calling for a ceasefire, but did not get it, Hipkins said.

"I would prefer New Zealand to be more assertive in the position we have been taking," he said.

Asked if the incoming government was diminished on the world stage during the current period, Hipkins said he was not going to speak for them.

"I think the New Zealand public's concern is pretty evident. We can see the images on the news at night. We can see civilians, children, being killed, and we want that to stop.

"Five weeks is a long time to continue to stay silent on an issue that's as important as this one."

- RNZ w/Reuters

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