Raids on schools 'appal' Martin


IRISH REACTION:MINISTER FOR Foreign Affairs Micheál Martin has strongly condemned Israel's attack on two UN-run schools in Gaza yesterday which resulted in dozens killed, saying the continuation of its military assault on the territory cannot be justified and must be brought to an immediate end.

Mr Martin has also rejected complaints by Israeli ambassador to Ireland Zion Evrony that the Government's stance on the crisis in Gaza is too critical of Israel.

The Minister said he was "appalled" by yesterday's "indiscriminate attacks by Israeli air forces which have resulted in so many civilian fatalities, including of children, who were simply sheltering from the conflict taking place around them".

"The death and suffering, as well as the humanitarian deprivation, now being inflicted on the people of Gaza as a result of the continuation of the Israeli Operation Cast Lead cannot be justified in any way and must now be brought to an immediate end."

Mr Martin called for the international community to intensify its efforts to bring an end to the "carnage" taking place.

"I again would like to make the strongest appeal for an immediate cessation of all violence in and from Gaza and for the putting in place of an effective and sustainable ceasefire and the facilitation of urgent humanitarian access," he said, adding that Ireland would continue to work closely with EU and international partners to push for a swift resolution to the crisis.

The Minister said he had spoken yesterday to John Ging, the Irish national who directs the UN Relief and Works Agency operations in Gaza.

Mr Ging had described "the incredibly difficult environment in which humanitarian organisations are now forced to act" and explained "their very real fears that a major humanitarian catastrophe will unfold in Gaza if the current violence does not end soon".

Also yesterday, the Minister met Mr Evrony, who raised concerns about the strong condemnation of Israel by both Mr Martin and Taoiseach Brian Cowen since the assault on Gaza began.

"Our position from the outset has been that we believe that the attack has been disproportionate and has caused an unacceptable level of civilian deaths and casualties," Mr Martin said.

"I gave [Mr Evrony] the background to our position and told him that it isn't an anti-Israel position . . . if there was a similar conflict elsewhere we would be making similar points."

The Minister expressed concern about the wider regional repercussions of Israel's offensive. "In our view . . . the attack . . . is undermining moderate Arab opinion and radicalising opinion generally in the Arab world and that is ultimately counterproductive to the security of Israel."

He was "deeply disappointed" with the failure of the UN Security Council to reach agreement on its response to the crisis.