Scale of Israel’s bombardment of Gaza cannot be justified, Tánaiste says

Micheál Martin says he believes international humanitarian law being broken in response to Hamas attacks

The scale of the bombardment of Gaza by Israel cannot be justified and is “disproportionate”, Tánaiste Micheál Martin has said.

Mr Martin, the Minister for Foreign Affairs, said he believes that international humanitarian law is being contravened in the conflict and that too many civilians are losing their lives.

It comes after Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said Israel’s response to the October 7th Hamas terror attack resembles something “approaching revenge”.

In a further sign of a hardening of opinion within Government, Mr Martin told reporters at the Fianna Fáil ardfheis on Saturday that Israel is pursuing Hamas “in a ruthless way” that cannot be justified.


“There is clearly a lot of anger in Israel, but that does not justify, in my view, the scale of the bombardment on Gaza,” he said.

“I believe what Israel is doing is disproportionate, it’s not necessary. So I believe it contravenes the fundamental principles of international humanitarian law, which is the concept and principle of necessity and proportionality being key.”

He added: “Too many children are losing their lives, and too many innocent civilians are losing their lives. And it seems to me that Israel is pursuing Hamas, but doing so in a ruthless way that is killing far too many civilians. That’s how I would articulate it.”

Mr Martin stopped short of saying that Israel was committing war crimes, but said he anticipated that the issue would be considered by International Criminal Court. He said the “court will ultimately decide on that and the head of the International Criminal Court has said that they do have jurisdiction over the Middle East”.

“What’s important is that there would be accountability, and that people need to be held to account in terms of any incidents or any attacks in respect of the war that has been conducted. And that also includes Hamas, because international humanitarian law applies to state actors as well as non-state actors,” he said.

In response to events in Gaza, Sinn Féin has called for the expulsion of the Israeli ambassador to Ireland. However, Mr Martin said the proposal was “populist” and “not serious” and that cutting diplomatic ties would have consequences in terms of assisting Irish citizens caught up in the conflict.

“Fundamental to international diplomacy is the very basic necessity of maintaining links and channels of communications with other states,” he said. “Having diplomatic relations does not mean one endorses the policies of any given state. But it’s an essential aspect of the conduct of foreign policy, that we would retain diplomatic channels and particularly in the context of a dispute, a conflict, a major war.

“We are now working to get Irish citizens out of Gaza. And I know Sinn Féin has called for the expulsion essentially of the Israeli ambassador.”

The Tánaiste added: “Logic escapes me as to how we are to meaningfully seek to get Irish citizens out of Gaza if one of the countries that we’re working with we break off relations with because, don’t forget, if we expel the Israeli ambassador, which I do not agree with but some advocate for, that would immediately mean the recall of the Irish ambassador who’s working in Israel and at the moment is working at keeping contact with all of the Irish citizens in Gaza.”

Jennifer Bray

Jennifer Bray

Jennifer Bray is a Political Correspondent with The Irish Times

Pat Leahy

Pat Leahy

Pat Leahy is Political Editor of The Irish Times