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Taoiseach says Gaza air strikes 'wholly disproportionate' but rejects call to expel Israeli ambassador

212 Palestinians have been killed in Gaza, including at least 61 children, and more than 1,400 wounded.

Updated May 18th 2021, 6:15 PM

mideast-gaza-rafah-israel-airstrikes Israeli air strikes in the southern Gaza Strip city of Rafah. Source: Xinhua News Agency/PA Images

TAOISEACH MICHEÁL MARTIN has called the Israeli government’s response in the ongoing Gaza conflict “wholly disproportionate” and said it has resulted in the killing of innocent civilians.

Speaking in the Dáil this afternoon, he said Hamas “should stop and cease firing rockets into Israel” and Israel “should desist from its wholly disproportionate response”.

Israel’s response, he said, is “wholly disproportionate and indiscriminate and has resulted in the killing of innocent civilians, children and many, many more and in my view is not justifiable”.

Martin said there has to be a ceasefire, stating that both sides should stop now.

“It is shocking what is going on there,” he said, adding that the world is watching. 

The Taoiseach said he has been in Gaza, and you cannot bomb Gaza in the manner it was bombed without killing innocent men, women and children. 

Martin said he does not agree that breaking diplomatic relations is the response that is needed, adding that there is a need to maintain engagement, particularly with governments you may disagree with.

Speaking in the Dáil, PBP TD Gino Kenny asked the Taoiseach when is the right time to expel the Israeli ambassador “because if it is not now, then when is the time?”

Expelling the ambassador would achieve nothing, said Martin, adding that it would be “a 24 hour wonder” and nothing more.

The EU parliament discussed the violence this afternoon with only Hungary refusing to ratify a statement which called for the immediate end to the violence. 

The statement said the priority “is immediate cessation of all violence, and implementation of a ceasefire in order to protect civilians and to provide humanitarian access in Gaza”.

Speaking earlier to The Journal, MEPs Clare Daly and Deirdre Clune were united in their calls for a ceasefire.

“What I’d like to see is a strong call for cessation of the violence, because it has been been particularly disproportionate from the Israeli side especially when you see the human impact. I mean with children, young people, families being destroyed,” Clune, of Fine Gael, said.

Independent Clare Daly called for an immediate halt to hostilities and accused Israel of committing war crimes.

“I am disgusted with the response of the European Union to what are war crimes being perpetrated by Israel targeting schools, targeting hospitals targeting the only Covid centre. 

“I think the European Union is complicit in this situation if they don’t take strong action. In fairness to Simon Coveney, he has stood out in terms of the other EU leaders and that’s a bit ironic me saying that because actually I think he should be doing a lot more, but he has been the best of the EU leaders on this issue, which really is an indictment of the EU so far it’s appalling,” she said.

Green Party MEPs Ciarán Cuffe and Grace O’Sullivan also issued a joint statement calling for immediate cessation of the violence.  

Violence 

A week of violence that has killed more than 200 people and pushed world leaders to step up mediation.

Air strikes sent dust clouds billowing into the skyline, as the Hamas militant group that controls the besieged and densely populated coastal strip threatened more rocket strikes on Tel Aviv if bombing of residential areas does not stop.

In a call with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday night, US President Joe Biden said he backed a ceasefire, shortly after diplomats said Washington had blocked a third draft of a UN Security Council resolution calling for an end to the violence. 

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In total, 212 Palestinians have been killed in Gaza, including at least 61 children, and more than 1,400 wounded – whilst in Israel, ten people have died, including one child, with hundreds injured, according to officials on both sides.

Demolition

An Oireachtas Committee was told today that Israel’s demolition of donor-funded Palestinian structures in the West Bank has increased over the past two years, and appears to have worsened during the Covid-19 pandemic.

The international community considers Israeli settlements in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, illegal, with the International Court of Justice ruling in 2004 that the territory is occupied by Israeli soldiers. Israel disputes this, and lays claim to the entire West Bank territory.

Representatives of the West Bank Protection Consortium (WBPC) said that in 2020, 56% of donor-funded structures for Palestinians in the West Bank were destroyed, representing a 23% increase on 2019. As of 30 April this year, a further 316 structures have been destroyed, with 110 of them donor-funded (a 90% increase).

West Bank Source: Oireachtas.ie

Christopher Holt of the WBPC said that this was “exacerbating the vulnerabilities” of Palestinians to Covid-19, and that this was the second-highest rate of demolitions in the West Bank in 11 years.

Holt said that there had been a “historical absence of accountability” in relation to these demolitions in the West Bank.

We’ve seen statements of condemnation and regret repeatedly – by Member States, by the EU – in response to violations of international law by Israel, including the demolition of property. But what’s glaringly absent are meaningful consequences, and indeed, the commitment that member states will pursue meaningful consequences where these violations occur, particularly where it involves the destruction of donor-funded aid, including aid funded by by the Irish Government.

Reporting from Christina Finn, Gráinne Ní Aodha, Niall O’Connor and AFP

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