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McDonald said the international community has looked the other way for years. Alamy Stock Photo

The targeting of civilians and hostage taking by Hamas 'is to be condemned outright', says McDonald

The bombardment of Gaza is equally to be condemned, she said.

MARY LOU MCDONALD HAS said the targeting of civilians and the taking of hostages by Hamas “is to be condemned outright”. 

Speaking to RTE’s News At One and referring to slaying of around 250 people who attended an outdoor music festival in an Israeli community near Gaza at the weekend, the Sinn Fein leader said to see young people out  enjoying themselves and meeting “such a violent and traumatic death is just truly horrific”.

“I understand perfectly the sense of trauma that’s been expressed,” she added.

“What happened at the weekend in terms of targeting civilians and hostage taking is not on,” said McDonald, calling it a breach of international law that must be condemned.

She went on to state:

I have to say the the bombardment now of Gaza is equally to be condemned.

Over 1,200 people have already been killed in violence in Israel and Gaza in the worst violence seen in the region since 2014.

At least 700 people were killed in southern Israel when Hamas militants stormed out of Gaza on Saturday and attack Israeli settlements.

Following two days of retaliatory air strikes, Israeli Defence Minister has ordered a “complete siege” on the Gaza Strip, while EU foreign ministers will tomorrow hold urgent talks on the situation

Giving her reaction today, McDonald said: 

“My feeling overall in this scenario is one of alarm because this is now a very, very dangerous situation, but also a feeling a very, very deep frustration, because the truth is, that for decades, the Israeli state has breached international law”. 

Collective punishment 

She said Israel has continued with collective punishment, annexation, confiscation of lands, and the imposing an apartheid regime while “denying the Palestinian people their absolute legitimate right rise to self determination”.

McDonald said she feels there is a depressing predictability now about the intensification of the conflict. 

None of the behaviour of Israel could justify the action of Hamas, McDonald said, repeating that she would not justify the targeting of civilians and the taking of hostages. 

The Sinn Fein party leader was asked if she endorses a tweet by Sinn Fein TD Chris Andrews, in which he said: “It seems that according to the #EU and #Ireland only Palestine has no right to defend itself against murder, torture and Apartheid…”. 

“My colleague Chris Andrews is quite correct to call out the fact that the international community has consistently looked the other way,” said McDonald, while saying that she had not seen the tweet by her party colleague. 

The lack of response from the international community to conflict situation in the region has made a “very, very difficult and dangerous situation all the more difficult and all the more dangerous”, she said. 

She highlighted that the Secretary General of the United Nations António Guterres had raised the “hardline” approach taken by the Israeli government, in the form of the extension of settlements.

When asked if the action of Hamas is an act of defence, in her view, McDonald said:

No, it’s clearly not.

McDonald also stated that she has visited the West Bank in the past to meet all sides, including the Hamas leadership. 

“That’s the correct way to approach this,” she said, adding: 

“We should know in Ireland, if you’re serious, and that’s the thing, if you’re serious about achieving a ceasefire, which is necessarily, a path to peace and respect for international law in a conflict situation you meet and talk to everybody, because that’s the only way that you can find a pathway forward.”

Ireland can be very constructive and influential in dealing with these matter, said McDonald. Ireland should not stand idly by, she added. 

The people of Palestine have endured bombardment and impoverishment for years, said McDonald who said the international community “has not alone looked the other way but in some ways, they have facilitated the breach of international law”.

“I couldn’t stand over that. I think that is wrong. I know that across all of the Oireachtas there is a widespread consensus in terms of the need to recognise the Palestinian State in terms of condemnation of annexation and confiscation of Palestinian lands.

“Ireland actually has a good analysis of the problem. What I would like us to do now is to move towards action and suppress our international partners, not to simply stand idly by this situation,” McDonald concluded. 

Taoiseach’s UN speech

Just over two weeks ago in the UN in New York, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar spoke about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in his General Assembly speech, stating that the international community had failed in its regard.

“It should not be so – we have known for decades the parameters of the only just solution: a two-State solution, with a viable Palestinian state based on the 1967 borders, living in peace and security alongside the State of Israel, whose right to exist should be accepted and respected by all its neighbours.

“We have affirmed and reaffirmed this many times. Yet, day after day, developments take us further from this vision and make a two-state solution harder to handle.

“We see acts of terrorism perpetrated against Israeli and Palestinian civilians; increasingly dangerous and provocative rhetoric; and clear violations of international law,” he said in his speech.

Varadkar spoke about the need to promote peace and reconciliation, stating that Ireland “wholeheartedly” agreed with a resolution passed by the General Assembly seeking an advisory opinion from the International Court of Justice on the legal consequences arising from Israel’s prolonged occupation.

Clarification of international law can only strengthen international peace and security, he said at the time.

Meanwhile, there have been calls for statements in the Dail this week on the issues. 

Social Democrats Foreign Affairs Spokesperson Gary Gannon has written to the Ceann Comhairle and the Oireachtas Business Committee requesting time be set aside in the Dáil this week to discuss the escalating violence in Israel and Gaza.

 “The Government must facilitate statements in the Dáil this week on the deteriorating situation in Israel and Gaza. The violence that has erupted over the weekend is shocking, frightening and hugely concerning.

“The answer to barbarity by Hamas is not further human rights abuses and breaches of international law by Israel. Missile strikes on densely populated areas, that civilians are unable to flee, is a breach of international law.

“The announcement that Israel is going to begin a complete blockade of Gaza – with no electricity, no food and no fuel allowed to enter the strip – is inhumane and unacceptable. Collective punishment of more than two million people – 50 per cent of whom are children – is a war crime and cannot not be tolerated,” he said.