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Steve Coogan, Riz Ahmed, and other celebrities urge Starmer to end Israel arms sales

More than 100 musicians, filmmakers and actors signed a letter calling on the Labour leader and election frontrunner to end 'UK complicity' in war crimes in Gaza
Celebrities, including Alan Partridge actor Steve Coogan, have called on Starmer to follow the example of countries such as Spain and end arms sales to Israel (AFP)

More than 100 cultural figures in the UK have signed a letter calling on Labour leader Keir Starmer to end arms sales to Israel if he wins the upcoming general election.

Starmer's Labour Party are front runners in opinion polls heading into the 4 July vote, but the leadership has faced fierce criticism for largely backing Israel's devastating offensive against Palestinians in Gaza.

In the letter published on Sunday, celebrities, including Steve Coogan, Miriam Margolyes and Riz Ahmed, said that as a former human rights lawyer, Starmer should lead the way in "ending UK complicity in war crimes in Gaza”.

Referring to Israel's eight-month-long campaign in Gaza, the letter said that the state had ignored the International Court of Justice's ruling to "immediately halt its military offensive in Rafah".

It added: "Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu currently faces arrest warrants from the International Criminal Court (ICC) for war crimes and crimes against humanity."

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"Continuing to sell arms to a country whose leader is accused of such grave violations of international law is morally reprehensible."

Despite Labour's polling lead, which some surveys report as close to 20 percent, Starmer presides over a party divided over the war in Gaza.

Both Labour and the ruling Conservatives backed Israel's decision to go to war in October 2023, although the opposition has since called for a humanitarian ceasefire.

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In the days following the Hamas-led attack on southern Israel, Starmer caused controversy within his party's ranks by supporting Israel's decision to block the entry of food, water, electricity and other essentials into Gaza.

The war, now nearing its eighth month, has turned much of the enclave into an uninhabitable hellscape.

Whole neighbourhoods have been erased. Homes, schools and hospitals have been devastated by air strikes and scorched by tank fire. 

Nearly the entire population is reported to have fled their homes, and those remaining in northern Gaza are on the verge of famine.

Last month, a YouGov survey found that more than two-thirds of British people want a ceasefire in Gaza. British people were also significantly more likely to sympathise with the Palestinian side compared to the Israelis.

YouGov researchers also found that a majority of people in the country support a ban on the sale of weapons to Israel.

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