Welsh politicians back call for immediate ceasefire in the Gaza Strip

Welsh politicians have backed calls for an immediate ceasefire in the Gaza Strip.

The Plaid Cymru motion was supported in the Senedd after ministers in the Labour-led Welsh Government abstained and offered its backbenchers a free vote.

The motion, which condemned the attacks by Hamas on Israeli civilians, and the Israeli government’s “indiscriminate attacks on Gaza”, was carried by 24 votes to 19 with 13 Senedd members abstaining.

Proposing the motion, Plaid leader Rhun ap Iorweth told the Senedd: “I feel the need to speak today as a member of humanity.

Plaid leader Rhun ap Iorwerth proposed the motion which was supported by the Senedd (Plaid Cymru/PA)
Plaid leader Rhun ap Iorwerth proposed the motion which was supported by the Senedd (Plaid Cymru/PA)

“We are human. The pain of loss is felt equally by an Israeli and a Palestinian mother. Today we speak up for peace for all mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, sons and daughters.

“We speak today in pursuit of unity. We reject division. We take a stand against those seeking to encourage division.

“The motion today, condemning as it does the horrifying attacks, calling for the immediate release of hostages, notes clearly that Israel has a duty to ensure the protection, security and welfare of its citizens.

“But in the war that ensued after October 7, the response that ensued – inevitable as a response was going to be, so there has to be a duty to be proportionate; international law is clear on that.

“There can never be justification for the collective punishment of an entire population.”

An amendment put forward by the Welsh Conservative MS Darren Millar, and supported by Labour backbenchers Alun Davies and Hefin David, instead called for a “suspension of hostilities to allow for the establishment of humanitarian corridors”.

Moving the amendment, Mr Millar said: “It was the worst atrocity committed against the Jewish people since the Holocaust.

“Let us be clear, Hamas is a racist, genocidal, misogynistic and homophobic organisation, which is hell bent on terror.

“We all do stand united in this chamber in condemning their actions on October 7.

“Israel, as is the case for any sovereign state has the right to defend itself, and its citizens in the face of such barbarity.

“But it’s important to draw the distinction here. Israel is at war with Hamas. It is not at war with the Palestinian people.

“It must conduct that war in accordance with international law, including avoiding civilian casualties.

“We all want an end to the violence. But a ceasefire can only ever be successful if it’s observed by both parties in a conflict.

“Hamas must release their hostages unconditionally and lay down their arms. Israel must then stop the bombing.

“The Rafah crossing must be open to ensure that there’s access to humanitarian aid and medical treatment.

“And the international community must work with vigour with Palestinian and Israeli leaders and regional partners to deliver a permanent peace settlement that we can deliver security and prosperity based on the principle of a two-state solution.”

Labour backbencher Jenny Rathbone told the Senedd: “The war crimes of Hamas cannot justify similar breaches of the Geneva convention by the Israeli Government, and the UK Government cannot be complicit, or they too could end up in the International Criminal Court.

“Any nation conducting any armed conflict, no matter what the provocation, is bound in law to comply with all the laws of war.

“Time is not on our side. The 240 hostages will perish along with the rest of the Gazan population unless there is a let-up in the constant bombardment.

“Failure to act and augment the clamour for a ceasefire is likely to lead to the death of hundreds of thousands of people. We cannot be a bystander in this appalling conflict.”

Social justice minister Jane Hutt, who was representing the Welsh Government in the debate, said ministers would abstain as under devolution it had no formal role in foreign affairs.

“It’s clear from this debate that this Senedd is united, united in our horror at the events that have unfolded in Israel and Gaza over recent weeks,” she said.

“The appalling attack by Hamas on innocent civilians in Israel and their capture of civilian hostages has shocked us all.

“The unimaginable suffering of so many innocent civilians we are now witnessing in Gaza and the resulting humanitarian catastrophe are an affront to our common humanity.

“We are clear about the horror of this humanitarian disaster, but I believe that we’re also clear about the urgent need to ensure that aid can reach the people who desperately need it, including the restoration of electricity, fuel, food and water to Gaza.

“That’s why the First Minister has joined with calls for an immediate humanitarian pause as the quickest and most effective way to allow this to happen, but also, crucially, as the most realistic route and platform for reaching a full ceasefire as soon as possible.”

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has also backed calls for a humanitarian pause.

The Urdd youth organisation, Muslim Council of Wales, Wales TUC and Cymdeithas yr Iaith Welsh language society have also joined the calls for a ceasefire.