Gilmore says Israeli blockade of Gaza ‘absolutely unacceptable’

The Irish Times – Friday, April 22, 2011 | MARIE O’HALLORAN

IRELAND WANTS the EU to take a more active and urgent interest in the situation in Gaza, Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore has told the Dáil.

The Minister for Foreign Affairs said he had made this “clear to my colleagues and the European Union foreign affairs council”.

He said “the fact that this has been an ongoing, long-standing problem should not be a reason to leave it to one side. The position in Gaza is serious” and the blockade was “absolutely unacceptable”.

He added that “we want to see an end to the continuing exchange of hostilities between Hamas and Israel, and the killings, loss of life and injury that is occurring”.

The Minister was responding to Sinn Féin foreign affairs spokesman Padraig MacLochlainn, who called on him to visit Gaza.

Mr MacLochlainn said a group of international parliamentarians was to go there last week but the trip was cancelled because their safety could not be guaranteed.

He said that showed the “gravity of the outrageous position in Gaza, which is essentially an open-air prison as a result of the actions of the Israeli state”.

Mr MacLochlainn also called on the Tánaiste to condemn the “ongoing actions of the Israeli state”.

Mr Gilmore had referred to the death of a 16 year old killed by a Hamas missile.

“All of us want a peaceful resolution to the conflict but in terms of scale the Israeli state has killed 50 people recently and 170 people since the end of Operation Cast Lead which resulted in the deaths of more than 1,300 people over a number of weeks,” the Sinn Féin TD said.

Mr Gilmore said he did not “have any hesitation in condemning attacks in whatever direction which kill civilians”.

The State was “absolutely opposed to Israel’s use of aerial weapons in attacks on Gaza”. They inevitably led to uninvolved civilians being killed or injured.

“We have also been critical of Israel for not taking political initiatives to try to end the cycle of violence by reaching a comprehensive peace. We must recognise, however, that firing is taking place in both directions. While Hamas and others in Gaza continue to fire rockets and mortars at what are clearly civilian targets, Israel will inevitably defend itself.”

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