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Palestinians look at the destruction after an Israeli strike where displaced people were staying in Rafah Alamy Stock Photo
Rafah attacks

Tánaiste says EU has discussed possible sanctions if Israel doesn’t comply with ICJ orders

Martin said there is ‘a lot of concern across the EU council among member states’.

LAST UPDATE | 27 May

TÁNAISTE MICHEÁL MARTIN has said EU foreign ministers have for the first time discussed sanctions on Israel if it ignores the rulings of the International Court of Justice (ICJ).

Last week, the ICJ ordered Israel to halt its offensive in Rafah.

However, Israeli strikes on a camp for displaced people in Rafah last night killed 35 people, according to the health ministry in Gaza.

This followed a Hamas rocket attack on Tel Aviv.

The Israeli army said it had targeted Hamas militants, but the health ministry in Gaza said in a statement that the strikes “claimed the lives of 35 martyrs and left dozens injured, most of them children and women”.

The Hamas government media office in Gaza earlier said the attack hit a centre run by the UN agency for Palestinian refugees near Rafah, branding it a “horrific massacre”.

Speaking at a joint press conference in Brussels, Martin said there can be no military solution to the conflict and criticised any group using violence or terrorism to eliminate the state of Israel or Palestine.

Martin said: He said: “I condemn the violence of yesterday. The rockets that were struck at Tel Aviv and the heinous attack on the Rafah tent refugee camp where innocent children and civilians were killed.”

He added: “What we witnessed last night is barbaric. Gaza is a very small enclave, densely populated conurbation.

“One cannot bomb an area like that without shocking consequences in terms of innocent children and civilians.”

Martin also said that this was the first meeting where there had been a “significant discussion on sanctions”.

Martin said there is “some distance between people articulating the need for a sanctions-based approach if Israel does not comply with International Court of Justice rulings,” and added that there is “not agreement at EU council level given the different perspectives there”.

However, he remarked that there is “a lot of concern across the EU council among member states in respect of what is a clear situation where the International Court of Justice has made provisional orders”.

Speaking earlier, Martin said that Israel was warned that any military operation in Rafah would have “dire consequences” for the population in Gaza.

“That is what we are seeing happening right now, on top of the hunger, on top of the starvation, [and]  the refusal to allow aid in, in sufficient volumes,” Martin added. 

It comes as Taoiseach Simon Harris labelled Israel’s attacks in the West Rafah area as “unconscionable” and remarked that “nothing is off the table” when it comes to sanctions.

Speaking on Ireland AM, Harris said “overnight we have seen Israel attack a displaced persons shelter, a place where parents were told to flee with their children to keep them safe and they bombed it”. 

“What we are seeing is just absolutely unimaginable,” he said, adding:c”We’re seeing the international community being ignored and international courts being ignored”. 

He said that by formally recognising the state of Palestine alongside Norway and Spain, Ireland is trying to “create some momentum” and keep hopes of a “two state solution” alive, while others are trying to “bomb” those hopes “into oblivion”. 

The CEO of ActionAid Ireland, Karol Balfe, has said that eight missiles fired by the IDF struck “makeshift shelters” housing displaced people, next to a warehouse stocking aid in West Rafah. 

She said that the charity is seeing images of “burned bodies” taken at the scene of the attack. 

‘Outraged’

The EU foreign affairs commissioner Josep Borrell said he was “horrified” by the Israeli strikes on Rafah  that killed d”dozens of displaced persons, including small children”.

“I condemn this in the strongest terms,” Borrell wrote on X. 

“There is no safe place in Gaza. These attacks must stop immediately,” he said, adding that orders from the International Court of Justice and international humanitarian law “must be respected by all parties”.

In a statement shared on X, French President Emmanuel Macron said he was “outraged” by the strikes. 

“These operations must stop. There are no safe areas in Rafah for Palestinian civilians. I call for full respect for international law and an immediate ceasefire,” Macron said. 

In the UK, Labour leader Keir Starmer described the scenes following the strikes as “horrifying” and urged Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to stop the offensive in Rafah.

“Those scenes, those reports, are horrifying and what makes it worse was this was a safe zone with women and children and families that have already fled a number of times,” Starmer said. 

“It’s horrifying to see that. I’ve been saying for some time the Rafah offensive should not take place. I was shocked by what I saw overnight, I think any human being would be shocked by what they saw. It’s got to stop.”

With reporting by Jane Moore

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