KEIR Starmer is reportedly ordering his MPs to vote against the SNP’s motion calling for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza, despite his party putting a very similar amendment forward also calling for the same.

The reason there appears to be a disagreement between the parties is over language in the SNP’s motion accusing Israel of the “collective punishment” of the Palestinian people.

It is understood that people close to Starmer were uneasy about the reference and it is expected he will use a three-line whip to ensure MPs do not rebel against him.

What does collective punishment mean?

Collective punishment is punishment imposed on a group – whether that be ethnic or political – for acts allegedly perpetrated by a member of that group.

The punished group will often have no association at all with the so-called perpetrator other than living in the same area, and so collective punishment is illegal under international law because it directly affects civilians.

The prohibition of collective punishment in international humanitarian law dates back to the Hague Convention (II) of 1899, which has been ratified by the UK.

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That states "[no] general penalty, pecuniary or otherwise, can be inflicted upon the population on account of the acts of individuals for which they cannot be regarded as jointly and severally responsible".

The Fourth Geneva Convention - which has also been adopted by countries including Israel, the UK and the US - includes a similar, but more specific prohibition.

That says "[no] protected person may be punished for an offence he or she has not personally committed.

"Collective penalties and likewise all measures of intimidation or of terrorism are prohibited."

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Critics of Israel's actions say cutting off power and water to Gaza amounts to collective punishment.

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres used the term in October last year not long after the Hamas attacks on Israel.

He said: "The grievances of the Palestinian people cannot justify the appalling attacks by Hamas.

"And those appalling attacks cannot justify the collective punishment of the Palestinian people."

The term was also used in a letter signed by more than 150 Muslim Labour councillors urging Starmer to call for a ceasefire in the Middle East.

It said: "No nation, no people or community should have to endure collective punishment and the same should be the case for the Palestinian people.”

There have been reports shadow Labour frontbencher Lisa Nandy briefed party MPs on the SNP ceasefire motion on Tuesday and claimed reference to the collective punishment of Palestinians was "provocative" and "inflammatory".

She reportedly told Labour MPs that they couldn't say what is happening in Gaza is in breach of international law.

This is all despite Scottish Labour passing a motion at its conference a few days ago calling for an immediate ceasefire and making references to the collective punishment of Palestinians.

Will Labour’s amendment be chosen?

First Minister Humza Yousaf said it was "frustrating" Labour would be vetoing the phrase, if indeed their amendment is selected by the Speaker in the Commons.

It is being reported that the Speaker may only be able to select one amendment and, with the Conservatives having put forward their own one, it is likely that would be picked over Labour’s.

This means that we could see a confusing situation where Labour don’t end up calling for an immediate ceasefire, despite lodging an amendment calling for exactly that, either through voting with the Tories or simply abstaining from the vote entirely.