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Israel’s action against Hamas must follow international law, warns Martin

The Tanaiste has expressed concern about the situation in the Middle East.

Israel’s response to an incursion by Hamas militants must follow the parameters of international humanitarian law, Micheal Martin has said.

The Tanaiste said he is deeply concerned by the situation in the Middle East and warned the decision by the Israeli military to tell the entire civilian population in the north of the Gaza Strip to move south is “deeply dangerous and impossible to implement”.

The United Nations, senior EU figures and aid agencies have all expressed alarm as many Palestinians struggle to flee ahead of a “co-ordinated” offensive in the Gaza Strip involving air, ground and naval forces.

It comes as civilians continue to suffer under a total siege imposed by Israel in the wake of last weekend’s unprecedented incursion by Hamas militants.

Responding to the crisis, Mr Martin said: “I am deeply concerned at the situation in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territory.

“The death toll from the brutal terrorist attack by Hamas in Israel last Saturday has now reached over 1,300 and the Israeli authorities have confirmed that at least 126 hostages have been taken to Gaza, the majority civilians.

“They must be released immediately, without preconditions. Hamas continues to fire rockets indiscriminately into Israel.

“Over 2,200 people, of which at least 700 are children, have now been killed in Israeli strikes in Gaza, with many more wounded.”

Mr Martin said UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres had made it clear “even wars have rules”.

The Tanaiste added: “International humanitarian law exists for a reason. Its overarching aim is to protect civilians; all civilians, everywhere.

“The rules are clear and they apply to all parties to all conflicts everywhere; state actor and non-state actors alike.

“The decision by the Israeli military to tell the entire civilian population in the north of the Gaza strip to move southward for their own safety is deeply dangerous and impossible to implement.

“The UN has been very clear: it is not possible for such a move to take place without serious humanitarian consequences and the likelihood of a catastrophic situation.”

Destroyed building
Palestinians inspect the damage of a destroyed building following Israeli air strikes on Gaza City (Abed Khaled/AP)

He said there is “no doubt about the brutal criminality of Hamas and their utter disregard for human life”.

But he added: “We absolutely must distinguish between Hamas and Palestinian civilians in Gaza.

“We are in contact with the UN and other partners on an ongoing basis on work to create humanitarian corridors from Egypt, to get vital supplies to civilians in urgent need in Gaza.

“I am also deeply concerned about rising violence and deaths in the West Bank, including increased incidents of settler violence and displacement of Palestinian communities.

“Under international law, Israel has a right to defend itself from attack, but this must be done within the parameters of international humanitarian law.

“I welcome (US) Secretary of State (Anthony) Blinken’s clear remarks on this during his meeting with (Israeli) Prime Minister (Benjamin) Netanyahu.

“As the heads of the International Federation of the Red Cross and the International Committee of the Red Cross have said, in the law of armed conflict there is no hierarchy in pain and suffering.

“The rules of war exist to help preserve humanity in its darkest moments, and they desperately need to be followed today. They are, and should remain, our compass to ensure that we put humanity first.”

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