I have been greatly concerned by the events in Gaza yesterday and over recent weeks, and especially by the appalling number of serious injuries to and deaths of people engaged in demonstrations. The escalation of these events in the last two days has been profoundly shocking.
I summoned the Ambassador of Israel in Ireland to Iveagh House this morning to express my shock and dismay at what unfolded yesterday and at the numbers killed or injured, which includes many women and children. I also made a direct request for an independent, international investigation of these events, led by the UN.
Every country is entitled to defend its border, but the use of force, and particularly deadly force, must only be used as a last resort and should be proportionate to a real and immediate threat. Israel is obviously vigilant when there are mass demonstrations close to its border with Gaza. However, Palestinians also have a legitimate right to protest peacefully, as most did. The number and nature of casualties in recent weeks, arising from the use of live ammunition by Israeli forces, has been indefensible. I was particularly shocked that children, and those clearly identified as medical workers and journalists, were among the huge numbers of people injured and killed.
In public statements on 31 March, 9 April and again yesterday, I have called on all sides to show restraint, but particularly on Israeli forces in their use of force. And I supported the calls by the EU and by the UN Secretary General for an independent and transparent investigation into these events. I also addressed the situation at slightly more length in a Topical Issues debate on 9 May.
I have also made clear in all my contacts in the region, even prior to these events, that the situation in Gaza is untenable. If the cycle of violence and depression in the Strip is not ended, events of this nature will inevitably recur. The long-standing blockade cannot be accepted as normal. It is for this reason that, in my visits to Gaza and in my many contacts at EU and international level, I have been particularly active in trying to encourage and promote international interest and alternative approaches. I will continue to make this a priority in my work.