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Micheál Martin visited a Kibbutz that was brutally attacked by Hamas.
Diplomatic Mission

Tánaiste visits Kibbutz attacked by Hamas, warns Israeli minister Gaza war is bringing 'misery'

Michéal Martin said that warnings of incoming rockets are still a ‘regular feature’ of Israeli lives.

THIS MORNING , Tánaiste Micheál Martin stepped over broken glass and through burnt-out homes in Kibbutz Be’eri, a once bucolic community in southern Israel that is now a visceral reminder of the devastation wrought by the Islamist militant group Hamas on 7th October, a date now known among Israelis as “the Black Sabbath.”

 “We all witnessed what were horrendous scenes of an idyllic neighbourhood being destroyed,” said Mr Martin speaking to Irish press in Jerusalem after the visit. “Tremendous, terrible brutality in evidence: the burning of homes, the destruction of a community.

This is where Emily Hand lived and the Hand family lived in peace,” he said, referring to the family and daughter of Dublin-born Tom Hand.

“You have to try and imagine that community before the attack. People are going about their daily lives…and suddenly this savage attack.”,” said the Tánaiste.

During his visit, Mr Martin was shown photographs of mutilated bodies of victims from the Hamas attack by Israeli officials.

“We have only one life,” said the Tánaiste. “For us, life is precious and how people could take life in such a savage way is beyond my comprehension.”

“It brings to mind the enormity of the brutality that was visited on Israel on 7th October and it’s important that we see that firsthand, to recognize it for what it is and condemn it unreservedly.”

meeting with the mayor Michéal Martin met with Israel's Minister of Foreign Affairs.

Before his tour of Kibbutz Be’eri, Mr Martin met with Eli Cohen, the Israeli Foreign Minister, and Alon Davidi, the mayor of the nearby city of Sderot which was targeted by Hamas militants on 7th October.

Earlier this week, Mr Cohen said that he believed that Israel had a political window of two to three weeks to continue their offensive on Gaza before international pressure significantly increased to wind down the military operation.

In his public meeting with Mr Cohen and Mr Davidi, Mr Martin said that Ireland is “unequivocal” in condemning the “unconscionable” Hamas attacks “on children, on women and on innocent civilians” – and added that he wasn’t saying that simply to please the Israelis.

During his last official visit to Israel just two months ago, Mr Martin was keen to convince the Israeli political establishment that Irish advocacy for Palestinian rights and statehood did not mean that Ireland was anti-Israel.

But today, the Tánaiste found himself meeting with Israeli officials just a day after two motions were put forward in the Dáil by opposition TDs which called for the withdrawal of the diplomatic status of the Israeli ambassador in Ireland and for the Government to refer the Israeli attacks in Gaza to the International Criminal Court for investigation.

Both motions were defeated by the Government on Wednesday but they’re unlikely to go unnoticed by Israeli officials – not least the Israeli Ambassador to Ireland, Dana Erlich, who was present on the Tánaiste’s visit to Israel.

Earlier today, Mr Martin emphasised to Mr Cohen that Ireland’s support for a two-state solution to the Israel-Palestine conflict should not be equated with support for Hamas and “absolutely” affirmed Israel’s right to exist – “in case that is in question.

He noted that Irish citizens had suffered at the hands of Hamas, referring to Kim Damti who was killed at the Nova Festival, along with over 250 others, and 8-year-old Emily Hand who is believed to be held hostage in Gaza.

The Tánaiste then raised his concerns over the rising numbers of children being killed in Gaza, which is estimated at 4,650.

“We worry about innocent children in Gaza who are not part of Hamas but are getting killed right now,” said Mr Martin and told Mr Cohen that he did not believe that a military solution would create a stable environment for future generations in Israel and Palestine.

“We may have to disagree on that and I respect where you’re coming from,” he said. “But our sense is that there’s a real danger that you will radicalise future generations even more.”

Mayor Davidi responded to Mr Martin’s calls for a ceasefire and said: “I will say to my prime minister to stop the war if Ireland will promise me that after five days all the weapons that Hamas has in Gaza are gone, and the army of Hamas goes to Egypt or someplace – maybe Ireland – but until that, I don’t know what we can do.”

Following his private meeting with Mr Cohen, the Tánaiste said he felt that the Israeli government was determined to continue with a military mission to dismantle Hamas in Gaza. “We don’t share that view,” he said.

“There has to be a political horizon at the end of the day in terms of how you resolve the overall situation in the region.”

“We do need an immediate humanitarian ceasefire to get aid into the citizens, to get medical supplies to the hospitals, to treat the wounded and the injured,” said the Tánaiste.

“The number of civilians being killed has to stop…This war is now bringing nothing but misery and abuse.”

Following his visit to southern Israel, Mr Martin met with the Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki and the Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh in Ramallah in the occupied West Bank, before returning to Tel Aviv for a meeting with Israeli President Isaac Herzog, whose father Chaim was born in Belfast and raised in Dublin.

Speaking on the RTÉ Six One News, Martin said Ireland will work closely with “like minded states” in terms of “working with the Palestinian Authority about what happens after this war”. 

Taking cover 

Later today, a convoy the Tánaiste Micheál Martin to Jerusalem as part of his official visit to Israel was forced to take cover due to a warning that rockets had been fired from Gaza today. 
Speaking to press after the rocket warning, Mr Martin said that the convoy followed security protocol and “nothing untoward happened from our perspective.”
He said the fact that rocket attacks from Palestinian militant groups in Gaza were still ongoing indicates that “there’s a fair degree of military activity going on on both sides” and added that these warnings are still a regular feature of Israeli lives.
“Obviously rockets coming in create their own uncertainty and insecurity for people in towns nearby and cities nearby,” says Mr Martin.