Israel’s ‘horrific’ attack on a refugee camp in Gaza yesterday was not proportionate “in any shape or form”, the Tánaiste has told The Pat Kenny Show.
The death toll from the missile strike on the Jabalia refugee camp in northern Gaza remains unclear; however, officials in Gaza say hundreds of people were killed or injured.
Israel has admitted responsibility for the attack, claiming it killed a prominent Hamas commander and ‘numerous other Hamas terrorists’, while also collapsing a network of tunnels it says were running underneath the camp.
Hamas has denied the presence of one of its leaders in the camp and accused Israel of attempting to justify what it describes as a “heinous crime against safe civilians, children, and women".
On The Pat Kenny Show this morning, the Tánaiste and Foreign Affairs Minister Micheál Martin said he was “shocked” at the attack and the “deaths of many, many civilians”.
“We don't have the exact figures yet, but I watched it last evening,” he said.
“Whole families destroyed, killed, fathers talking about losing their children; it's horrific and it's not justifiable and in our view, it adds pressure to the need to have a humanitarian pause here, a humanitarian ceasefire to enable aid to get in.”
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He said Israel has a right to go after Hamas but the missile strike was not a proportionate response.
“When you bomb a refugee camp which is a town in itself of long duration - it's there for many, many decades - there is no doubt, many, many civilians will be killed,” he said.
“Children will be killed and I do not believe it was a proportionate attack last evening in any shape or form.”
Israel has accused Hamas of using Palestinian civilians as ‘human shields’ to protect it military assets and insisted that its attacks on civilians do not breach international law.
Minister Martin said there is both “a moral question and a legal question”.
“The ICC - the International Criminal Court - who are very clear that they have jurisdiction in the Middle East, ultimately decides on what constitutes a war crime or not, but in my view, I mean, what is Israel saying?
“That if we take out a commander of Hamas and some underground tunnels, that that's worth how many hundreds of lives?
“Is that the moral question that's been put before us?
“I'm very clear on what side I'm on in that. You cannot knowingly take out hundreds of civilians who are not Hamas because of the cowardly and unacceptable and illegal use of civilians as human shields.
“I mean, Israel is a state. It's a democratic state. We do expect higher standards from states as opposed to non-state actors generally.”
The Tánaiste said the rules of war have to apply to both sides.
“By any yardstick, if you watch the scenes at the refugee camp last evening, where mothers and fathers were emerging, with one man saying, ‘All my children are dead. All my children are dead,’ it is horrific.
“There has to be proportionality applied here, through a moral lens.”
Minister Martin said a pause in the fighting is needed to allow a humanitarian response to the “human catastrophe happening before our very eyes” in Gaza.
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Main image is a splitscreen showing the Tánaiste in the Newstalk studio and the aftermath of an Israeli missile attack on a refugee camp in Gaza.