Addressing a Topical Issues debate on Gaza in the Dáil this afternoon (Wednesday July 16), Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, Charles Flanagan TD, stated:
“The current large scale violence in and around Gaza was sparked by the dreadful murders of four young people in June and July, but quickly escalated, and has taken on a terrible life of its own. An estimated 1,260 rockets have been fired from Gaza at Israeli cities, including Tel Aviv and West Jerusalem, and at the nuclear reactor at Dimona. Israel in response has carried out some 1,750 air strikes on Gaza. These are stated to be aimed at missile launchers and other targets associated with Hamas and other militant groups. However, as is always the case it seems, the resultant casualties, now estimated at approximately 205 dead in Gaza, include very large numbers of civilians.
“Israel has stated that it seeks what it calls “quiet for quiet”, that is, a resumption of the truce which has largely held since November 2012. The attitude of Hamas is less clear, but its military wing seems uninterested for the moment in a ceasefire. It may be that, having been weakened in a number of ways in recent months, it is seeking to reassert its standing in a military confrontation with Israel.
“It is however the ordinary people, especially of Gaza but also of Israel, who suffer the cost of these events. We have all seen with horror the reports of civilians killed, of people evacuating their homes, of civilians running for shelters. I share entirely the views expressed by Deputies and by many members of the public that this is not acceptable.
“Our position has been made very clear. This violence, and its cost to civilians, is not acceptable. On taking office I issued a statement on Monday, calling for an end to firing by both sides, and a restoration of the truce. All Israelis, and all Palestinians, have the right to live in peace and security without this constant threat of violence. My predecessor, who also made a similar statement on behalf of the Government last week, spoke directly to the Israeli and Palestinian Ambassadors on Thursday last, 10 July, and asked them to convey urgently to their authorities our great concerns about the situation and our call for restraint and an urgent de-escalation of the crisis, full respect for international humanitarian law and a restoration of the ceasefire. I am glad of the opportunity of today’s debate to restate those positions clearly.
“I was very encouraged by Egypt’s proposal for a ceasefire to come into effect yesterday, and by the acceptance of this proposal by Israel, which then halted its military operations for a number of hours. Regrettably, missile attacks from Gaza into Israel did not cease, and attacks in both directions are now continuing. There is no indication as yet that Hamas are disposed to accept a ceasefire. I nonetheless hope that the Egyptian Government will persevere, and that it will be possible to achieve a ceasefire very soon.
“High Representative Ashton has made similar calls on behalf of the EU, as have many of my EU colleagues. The EU Heads of State and Government at their meeting today are expected to issue a statement restating those calls. The Foreign Affairs Council on 22 July which I will attend will also address the crisis in Gaza and will hopefully have an opportunity to consider the longer term implications for the peace process of recent developments on the ground and the appropriate EU response.
“Finally, we are of necessity focussed now on achieving an end to the current wave of attacks. But the Government have also consistently stressed that, until the continuing blockade of Gaza is brought to an end, these cycles of violence are always going to recur. That is a matter to which we will return.”
16 July 2014