Labour leader Chris Hipkins has called for an “immediate ceasefire” in Gaza during a media conference this afternoon in Wellington.

Hipkins appeared at Labour’s caucus room in Parliament to make the announcement.

“The New Zealand Labour Party is urgently calling for a ceasefire in Gaza and Israel to put a halt to the appalling attacks and violence, so that a journey to a lasting peace can begin,” Hipkins said.

“Along with other New Zealanders we are appalled by the devastation and loss of life. We recognise the grief of communities in New Zealand who have connections with those in the conflict.

“We are urgently calling for a ceasefire. Israel and Hamas need to immediately ensure the conditions for a ceasefire are met and to commit to a lasting peace in the region.”

Hipkins said he recognised Israel’s right to “self-defence”, but urged all parties to follow international law.

“We also urge Hamas to release all hostages immediately and without condition and to be part of the process to work towards peace.

“We remain very concerned about the humanitarian impact of the conflict and the blockade preventing essential services reaching people in Gaza. We are calling on Israel to allow movement of supplies and all parties to support the departure of those who choose to leave.

“Ultimately, we want to see a just and lasting peace that recognises the existence and self-determination of Israelis and Palestinians. We encourage the parties to work to a two-state solution within secure and recognised borders where all citizens enjoy equal rights and freedoms.”

Hipkins said he was speaking as Labour leader not as the caretaker prime minister.

“I want to acknowledge that this is an unusual period for New Zealand. While we wait for a government to be formed, we will continue to uphold the caretaker convention and as prime minister I will work within what can be agreed with the incoming government.

“However I speak today as the Labour Leader. I, and the Labour Party, cannot stand by any longer in the face of the horrific scenes we are witnessing without calling for a ceasefire.”

In a statement this afternoon, a National Party spokesperson said: “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 Leaders’ 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.”

It comes as some US media outlets, including the Washington Post, today reported a ceasefire agreement in Gaza is close.

It’s reported a ceasefire of up to five days could take place, allowing for the exchange of hostages from both sides of the conflict.

However, an official White House spokesperson said a deal has not yet been reached.