Almost 40 East Lancashire Labour councillors have called on party leader Sir Keir Starmer to demand the UK government presses for a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas in Gaza.

The group have also called on the Labour leader to take a tougher line on alleged 'Israeli military brutality' in the enclave.

Violence has erupted between Hamas terrorists and Israeli defence forces since the Hamas attack on October 7, with thousands of civilian deaths in Israel and Palestine and thousands more injured, and a rapidly worsening humanitarian crisis in the Gaza Strip.

The letter, orchestrated by Burnley Council leader Cllr Afraisiab Anwar and Lancashire County Council Labour group boss and Nelson East ward's Cllr Azhar Ali, says it is vital humanitarian aid gets to Palestinians and that hostages held by Hamas are released.

The document has been signed by 38 councillors from Hyndburn, Burnley and Pendle - including Hyndburn Labour group leader Cllr Munsif Dad - and comes as Sir Keir met Muslim MPs critical of the party's stance on the conflict.

It follows a similar letter from almost 70 Labour councillors and community leaders to Prime Minister Rishi Sunak last week calling for him to take steps to mitigate the growing crisis.

Cllr Azhar Ali said: "Labour councillors from across Lancashire have written to Sir Keir Starmer to express the serious concerns our communities have around the war in Palestine and Israel and the thousands of innocent people who have been killed in the last few days, with over 2,000 children dead .

"The international community and our government must ensure the release of hostages whilst also negotiate to stop the barrage of missiles flying on both sides.”

Cllr Anwar said: "We are still waiting for Rishi Sunak to respond to our community letter setting out our legitimate concerns over the potential escalation that could spill over into neighbouring countries.

"We should not be arming Israel so they can destroy the lives of innocent Palestinians. We need a ceasefire to allow medicine, fuel and water to reach the 2.2 million Palestinians."

The letter to Sir Keir says: "Our residents have experienced profound distress due to the unfolding humanitarian crisis in Gaza. It has been deeply unsettling to witness the tragedy in Gaza and Israel.

"Amidst the relentless bombardment in Gaza, there is undeniable proof of Israeli military brutality in the West Bank.

"We firmly assert the importance of upholding international law. We vehemently condemn any actions that lead to the loss of innocent lives.

"Israel's blatant violation of international law through the denial of essential resources such as food, water, and fuel must be unequivocally denounced. The collective punishment of 2.2m Palestinians cannot be justified.

"A ceasefire is imperative, hostages must be freed, and it is crucial to recognize that lasting peace can only be achieved by addressing the historical injustice of the illegal occupation of Palestinian land.

"Numerous Labour supporters in our community believe that their concerns regarding this issue are not being acknowledged by the party leadership."

The letter calls on Sir Keir to urge the government to work with Israel and Hamas to bring about the immediate release of all hostages; demand the government to call for an immediate ceasefire and an end to the Israeli siege of Gaza; demand the government to guarantee the prompt opening of aid corridors into Gaza.