Israel-Hamas war: Ireland joins three other countries in urging EU to call for lasting ceasefire in Gaza

Israel presses ahead in battle against Hamas in southern Gaza

Ireland, Belgium, Spain and Malta have urged the European Union to call for “a lasting humanitarian ceasefire that can lead to an end of hostilities” in Gaza.

The letter from Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and three other European leaders has been sent to president of the European Council Charles Michel before a summit of heads of state and government in Brussels later this week.

The four leaders wrote, “These are dark hours for millions of people in Palestine and Israel. Across Europe anti-Semitic incidents have resurged and this cannot be tolerated. It is time for the European Union to act. Our credibility is at stake.”

The letter is cosigned by Mr Varadkar, Belgian prime minister Alexander De Croo, Spanish prime minister Pedro Sánchez and Maltese prime minister Robert Abela.


It comes as Israel’s bombardment of Gaza continues in a war that was sparked by the Hamas attack on Israeli civilians on October 7th.

There was a ceasefire in place as part of an agreement to facilitate the release of some of the hostages taken by Hamas but hostilities resumed earlier this month.

The four leaders write that: “Two months since hostilities broke out, the death toll, the level of destruction, and the dire humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip are alarming. ”

They call for “a serious debate on the war” during this week’s European Council meeting and ask Mr Michel to steer such a discussion “which should aim at agreeing on a clear and firm position by the European Union.”

The leaders reiterate their “strong condemnation of the terrorist attacks committed by Hamas on October 7th″ and call for the immediate release of all hostages.

They also reiterate Israel’s right to defend itself “in line with international law and international humanitarian law”.

The leaders welcome the humanitarian pause that allowed for the partial release of hostages and allowed for an increase in humanitarian aid to Gaza.

However, they write: “We have reached a moment in which the European Union must go further on three issues.

“First, and above all, we must call urgently for all the parties to declare a lasting humanitarian ceasefire that can lead to an end of hostilities.”

They add: “Second, effective measures must be taken immediately to protect innocent civilians.

“We need to express our deep concern about the unbearable number of casualties in Gaza.

“Unhindered humanitarian aid must reach those in need immediately”.

They say: “we should recall the urgent need for a political process on the basis of the implementation of the two-state solution.”

The leaders call for the convening of an international peace conference with the parties as soon as possible.

Ireland’s European commissioner Mairead McGuinness said she thinks the letter is “significant” but said it is “signed by a small number of member states”.

She said EU foreign ministers are meeting on Monday and the letter comes at a time these ministers are reflecting on the European position on the war.

She said: “The official position from the European Union led by the leaders, while there are different voices within the Council formation ... the official position is humanitarian pauses.”

Ms McGuinness told RTÉ Radio there are “terrible things happening to very innocent people” in Gaza and “really big concerns around humanitarian aid ... we’re sending in more aid but it’s actually not getting across the border in sufficient quantities”.

The United Nations General Assembly is likely to vote on Tuesday on a draft resolution demanding a ceasefire, diplomats said on Sunday.

On Friday, the United States vetoed a UN Security Council proposal demanding an immediate ceasefire for humanitarian reasons.

The US vote was criticised by Arab foreign ministers on Sunday at an international conference in Doha, the capital of Qatar, which played a key role in negotiating the ceasefire late last month.

Tánaiste Micheál Martin said Ireland is willing to unilaterally impose travel bans on violent Israeli settlers who are “terrorising” Palestinians in the occupied West Bank.

It comes as Mr Martin pushes for the European Union as a whole to impose travel bans and asset freezes on violent settlers, who are blamed for driving hundreds of Palestinians from their homes since October 7 and destroying an Irish Aid-funded school last week.

If some EU member states block agreement on such sanctions, Ireland is willing to go ahead with national measures, Mr Martin told journalists.

“We can and we’re certainly very open to that. Normally we want to work with Europe because it has more impact in terms of trade sanctions for example or other types of sanctions, “ the Mr Martin said.

“But certainly in terms of travel bans we could, we’re very open to that. But we want to push that the EU should do it as an entity.”

Mr Martin spoke on the sidelines of a meeting of EU foreign ministers Brussels, discussing Gaza and support for Ukraine ahead of a crunch meeting of leaders later this week.

UN secretary general Antonio Guterres said he would “not give up” appealing for a ceasefire on Sunday.

“I urged the Security Council to press to avert a humanitarian catastrophe and I reiterated my appeal for a humanitarian ceasefire to be declared,” Mr Guterres said. “Regrettably, the Security Council failed to do it, but that does not make it less necessary.”

Mr Guterres said the city, with a population of around 626,000, could be on the verge of collapse with the possibility of epidemic diseases engulfing it.– Additional reporting from Reuters

Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn is a Political Correspondent at The Irish Times

Naomi O’Leary

Naomi O’Leary

Naomi O’Leary is Europe Correspondent of The Irish Times