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Coveney disappointed Security Council did not even agree call for ceasefire

‘Children are never a legitimate target’ Minister says in debate on Israel-Gaza

‘The numbers of Palestinian civilians killed - and a quarter of them children - flies in the face of humanity. It is just not acceptable,’ Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney said. Photograph: Julian Behal

Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney has expressed his disappointment that the United Nations Security Council could not agree a clear joint statement on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, “not even a call for a ceasefire”.

Following the meeting in New York on Monday Mr Coveney said “our teams are working hard to try to find a way to make progress”.

But in a sharp rebuke Mr Coveney said “it is hard to comprehend how the UN Security Council, the body in terms of international politics that is there to prevent conflict and to respond to it ……to bring it to an end, is unable to agree a clear joint statement on this issue, not even to make a clear statement on the protection of civilians and children, not even a call for a ceasefire”. Ireland is currently one of the members of the UN Security Council.

The US is understood to have blocked the text drafted by China, Tunisia and Norway.

In an address to the Seanad as he opened a debate on the situation in Gaza and Israel Mr Coveney said the scale of deaths and injuries to civilians is reprehensible.

“The plight of children is shocking. Over 60 children have been killed in just over a week in this latest escalation.

“No child, anywhere, should have to endure the trauma of an onslaught of rockets and missiles.” He added that “children are never a legitimate target regardless of where they’re located or who is located nearby”.

“The numbers of Palestinian civilians killed - and a quarter of them children - flies in the face of humanity. It is just not acceptable.”

The deaths of Israeli citizens are unacceptable, he said as he repeated his call on all factions in Gaza to halt attacks on Israel immediately.

But he said Israel’s response was disproportionate and Gaza, in particular, children and families have nowhere to run to escape the violence. “Unlike their Israeli neighbours, they have no bomb shelters to flee to. They are locked into this tiny piece of land, 25 miles by five miles, densely populated with 2.1 million people who are bombarded night after night.”

Mr Coveney said the international community should and must come together to enable all efforts to reach a ceasefire.

EU foreign ministers meet in emergency session on Tuesday to discuss the hostilities and Mr Coveney said he would “underline the need for strong EU engagement - both on the current hostilities and to address the root causes of the conflict which we have repeatedly tried to focus political attention on”.

Mr Coveney said “we will continue to speak out against illegal settlements in occupied Palestinian territory and in particularly their expansion.

“We will continue to speak out against demolitions of Palestinian homes and forced evictions in East Jerusalem.”

He said that “now is the time for de-escalation, before further lives are lost. We must encourage all efforts to reach a ceasefire. And beyond that, we must find a way to put an end to the repeated cycle of violence we see over and over again.”

Fianna Fail Senator Lisa Chambers said the response of the US administration “has been disappointing to put it mildly” and questions had to be asked as to why the Security Council failed to reach unanimous agreement.

Independent Senator Michael McDowell described Gaza as a “living hell” and “we must protest” and defend the rights of all children and civilians.”The cycle must end and we must stand up for what we believe and not be afraid to stand up for what we believe”.

Labour Senator Ivana Bacik said “civilians on both sides deserve the protection of international law”. She condemned the overnight bombing by 54 Israeli jets taking 20 minutes to bomb 35 targets largely in the Gaza strip. She said the killing of children was a war crime.

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