Israel/Gaza conflict: Strong emotions in Parliament as parties debate response

After weeks of protests across the country, politicians finally answered the public's call for a strong statement on the conflict in Gaza.     

The new Government stopped short of calling for an immediate ceasefire, instead urging parties involved to take urgent steps towards one.

Nuphar Chechik is an Israeli Jew and on Thursday she joined hundreds on the forecourt of Parliament. She just turned 18 and when she leaves New Zealand, she'll return to Israel and go to war to "serve my country".    

"Obviously it scares me... I feel like it is important," she said.

The conflict drew loud crowds supporting either side in Wellington on Thursday. The pro-Israeli contingent was beefed up by Destiny Church head Brian Tamaki's supporters, who performed a rousing haka following his speech.

The depth of feeling spilled into the House.    

"It brings tears to my eyes, it drives me to rage to think what we can do as human beings to one another," said Labour's Damien O'Connor.    

It was in response to the Government's motion calling for urgent steps toward a ceasefire, unequivocally condemn the Hamas attack and call for the release of all hostages.    

O'Connor called on the Government to go further and call for an immediate ceasefire.   

"A call to an end to this depravity, this genocide, this slaughter. That's what it is," he said. "I call upon Israel - a nation that has been set up and seeks sympathy and support because of the Holocaust and the outrageous outcomes - I call on that nation to look at itself and apply the same humanity to the people of Palestine."  

The sentiment was echoed by the Greens.   

"It is intolerable and grotesque to suggest the Israeli government are self-defence. This is retaliation against civilians," said Greens co-leader Marama Davidson.     

The entire party donned keffiyeh in support of Palestine.   

"Every 10 minutes, one of these kids, somebody's everything, is killed in Gaza," said Green MP Golriz Ghahraman.   

Te Pati Māori's Debbie Ngarewa-Packer said: "From the river to the sea, Palestine must be free".   

Members gave passionate addresses from both perspectives.   

"Two million people are being held hostage in Gaza right now by Hamas," said ACT's Simon Court.   

The reactions from opposing sides were just as full of feeling.   

The Foreign Minister explained why he hasn't called for an immediate ceasefire.   

"We will only reach that long-term solution if Israel is assured that Hamas cannot carry out an attack like October 7 ever again," said Winston Peters.   

Peters strayed from condemning atrocities to condemning Te Pati Māori    

"There are people here who know who invaded the Moriori and ruined their peaceful existence. Stop lecturing to us as though somehow they're perfect and the rest of us are not," the deputy Prime Minister said.   

The debate was then pulled back on track by the first leader-to-leader question of the term.    

Labour's Chris Hipkins asked about why the Government wasn't calling for a ceasefire.   

"We would like to see a ceasefire. But, in order to achieve a sustainable ceasefire, as the member well knows, both sides need to be able to do so," Prime Minister Christopher Luxon replied.