Government will not expel Israeli ambassador over Gaza violence

The European members of the UN Security Council have voiced deep concern at the violence

Government will not expel Israeli ambassador over Gaza violence

A Palestinian woman during a protest near the Gaza Strip's border with Israel, 14-05-2018. Image : Sameh Rahmi/NurPhoto/Sipa USA

Updated: 18.45

The Taoiseach has said Ireland will not expel the Israeli ambassador despite yesterday's violence in Gaza.

Mr Varadkar told the Dáil that expelling the Israeli envoy would lead to a breakdown in relations – and Ireland’s representative in Israel being sent home in response.

At least 58 people were killed by Israeli forces during Monday's protests, which coincided with the official movement of the US embassy to Jerusalem.

It marked the deadliest day in the region since the Gaza war in 2014, with thousands of others injured.

This evening, the European members of the UN Security Council voiced their deep concern at the violence.

In a joint statement this evening, France, the UK, the Netherlands, Poland and Sweden called on Israel to respect the “principal of proportionality in the use of force when defending its legitimate security interests.”

“We are deeply concerned by the sharp escalation in violence that we witnessed in Gaza yesterday,” the nations said in the statement.

“This has resulted in a high number of Palestinians killed and injured.

“While recognising its right to protect its borders , we expect Israel to respect the fundamental right to peaceful protest and the principal of proportionality in the use of force when defending its legitimate security interests.”

File photo shows Richard Boyd Barrett speaking to the media outside Leinster House | Image: Sam Boal/RollingNews.ie

People Before Profit TD Richard Boyd Barrett told the Dáil there needs to be action.

"What scale of atrocity does Israel have to commit to trigger EU sanctions against it?

"Israel has favoured trade status from the European Union with the Israel-European Association Agreement.

"We treat it effectively as an associate member of the European Union, and yet that massacre 58 people yesterday".

Further demonstrations are expected, as events are held to mark the 70th anniversary of the creation of Israel - known as the 'Nakba' or 'catastrophe' by Palestinians.

Earlier on Tuesday, the Foreign Affairs Minister and Tánaiste Simon Coveney summoned the Israeli ambassador to his Department to express "Ireland’s shock and dismay" at what happened in Gaza.

In a statement, a Department spokesperson said: "The Ambassador has been informed of Irish demands for an independent international investigation into yesterday’s deaths lead by the UN."

However, Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald said Minister Coveney's actions did not go far enough.

She argued: "I know that the Tánaiste has called in the Israeli ambassador - actually the Tánaiste should be sending the Israeli ambassador home.

"The Irish State now needs to recall our diplomatic mission from Israel."

"Cold blooded massacre"

The People Before Profit party is also calling for the ambassador's expulsion after what they described as a "cold blooded massacre of unarmed protesters".

In a earlier statement Mr Boyd Barrett said: "The Irish Government should immediately expel the Israeli ambassador and impose severe sanctions on Israel. If they fail to do so, then all their claimed commitment to International law and human rights is nothing but the purest hypocrisy." 

The Labour leader Brendan Howlin believes the EU needs to take action, noting: "In the same way we stood in solidarity with our colleagues in Europe against Russia, this is a matter of the same international grievous wrong."

Fianna Fáil has called it an attack on humanity, with Darragh O'Brien stating: "It's an absolute outrage, and it was a massacre in Gaza."

The issue will be raised with the Taoiseach in the Dáil later.

Meanwhile, protests are being planned across the country later by the Ireland-Palestine Solidarity Campaign. 

The group says "words are not enough", and they plan to protest against what they call the "shameful and sickening" violence.

A book of condolence for the people of Palestine will open to the public at Dublin's Mansion House tomorrow.

Reporting by Sean Defoe, Stephen McNeice, Jack Quann and Michael Staines