I propose to take Questions Nos. 414, 415 and 423 together.
I am deeply concerned by the intensification of violence in the past week, including the launching of rockets from Gaza and the actions of the Israeli Defence Forces, and by the increase in tension and violence in the West Bank and in Israel. Now is the time for de-escalation and all concerted efforts towards a ceasefire.
I am shocked at reports of the number of people in Gaza, including the large number of children, who have been killed in recent days. I also condemn rocket fire from Gaza which has killed Israeli civilians, including children.
The protection of all civilians, in Gaza, in the West Bank and in Israel, is of paramount importance and is an obligation under international humanitarian law. The high number of Palestinian civilians killed - a quarter of them children- is simply unacceptable. The impact of Israeli strikes on civilians in the Gaza Strip is disproportionate, and the impact on children, in an already difficult humanitarian situation, is especially worrying. Israel must abide by the provisions of International Humanitarian Law, particularly in relation to the Protection of Civilians, including when exercising the right to self-defence.
Ireland’s diplomatic engagement with Israel is important as it is a means for us to directly communicate our concerns around actions such as those we have witnessed in the past week. On 11 May, I called in the Israeli Ambassador and underlined that Israel’s actions in Gaza which are causing significant civilian casualties are unacceptable and Israel must act responsibly and comply with its obligations under international humanitarian law. These messages matter, and by expelling an Ambassador, we would be closing down our channel of communication with the Israeli Government.
On 16 May, I addressed an emergency open session of the UN Security Council. I called strongly for a cessation of hostilities and emphasised the obligations that all sides have under international humanitarian law. I called on the Council to send a clear and united message that this cycle of violence and bloodshed must end now.
The President of the General Assembly of the United Nations has convened a meeting on the situation on 20 May.
I will continue to press this issue at the UN and through the EU. On 18 May I will join an extraordinary meeting of EU Foreign Ministers on the situation in the occupied Palestinian territory and Israel and will raise Ireland's concerns in clear terms and urge a strong EU response.