The Minister for Foreign Affairs, Micheál Martin, has visited Gaza despite being blocked entry by Israel. Mr Martin entered Gaza through the Rafah crossing on its border with Egypt. Earlier Mr Martin said, “Industrial estates were levelled, civilians were killed, women and children were killed [in the Gaza offensive],”
Mr Martin said. “In my view there was no justification for that level and scale of violence, and the continuing blockade is not acceptable either.“All of that in my view just nurtures the fundamentalists and extremists and actually undermines the voice of moderation.”But the Minister stressed Ireland’s position did not pose a threat to any country in the region. “We’ve taken a position on the Middle Eastern peace process which we believe is a fair one, and an honest assessment and objective,”
Mr Martin said. “We’re not anti-Israel. We have very a clear position in terms of how the peace process should be advanced.”Mr Martin is the first EU foreign minister to gain access to Gaza since Sweden foreign minister Carl Bildt visited last February. British, French, Turkish and Belgium have all been excluded from entering in recent months.Mr Martin met Irishman John Ging, head of the United Nations operation in the Gaza strip.
The Minister visited a UN food distribution centre, met with businessmen to discuss the impact of the Israeli blockade and held talks with Palestinian human rights activists.Almost 1,400 Palestinians and 13 Israelis were killed in the 22-day Gaza Bombing, 20,000 people remain homeless as a with 70 per cent of the 1.5 million-strong population classed as refugees.Micheál Martin later in the day pleaded with Israel to end the blockade of Gaza and vowed Ireland would continue to speak out on the issue During his historic first trip to the occupied territory, Mr Martin said the blockade was affecting ordinary people and helping swell the ranks of the Islamic Hamas administration. His claim was backed by Gaza business chiefs who claimed it was breeding another generation of hostility and hatred.
Mr Martin further said, “I would appeal to the Israeli Government and all concerned to lift this blockade,” Mr Martin said. “When you see it first hand you see how it’s choking the life out of ordinary Palestinians and how it’s creating a very bleak presence for them, not to mind the future.”Mr Martin said. “The hundreds of thousands of people who are now in poverty, who have to queue up with their ration cards for food everyday at the food distribution centre; the impact of the blockade can clearly be seen,” he said.
While acknowledging Ireland as a small country but stressed that as a member of the EU its voice counted and pledged to continue to speak out. “That’s a fundamental political thing we can do as a country and we will continue to do that.”Irishman John Ging, UNRWA head, praised Mr Martin for having the “political courage” to visit the territory, but he said aid money pledged by international donors was not getting through. “It’s massively frustrating for everybody here when they know that 4.5 billion dollars were pledged.“That’s 4.5 billion dollars to relieve 4.5 billion dollars’ of misery and not one dollar has actually come to Gaza for recovery and reconstruction,” he said.
Mr Martin voiced concern that materials for reconstructing homes and repairing schools damaged during the Israeli offensive were not allowed into the region. “There is crying need for this situation to end, to allow proper living standards return in terms of food supplies and the rebuilding of homes,” he said.
The Ireland-Palestine Solidarity Campaign (IPSC) welcomed Mr Martin’s visit, saying the EU needed to be more “vocal and active” in its opposition to what Israel was doing. Chairperson Dr David Landy said: “The people of Gaza are suffering terribly as a result of the ongoing Israeli blockade and the infrastructure remains in tatters since the massive Israeli military assault last year.”
Please Post comments at IrishBlog in IrishFreedomNews forum as there is a fault in the comments section of Google's blogger design.