Ireland’s deputy premier has said that he will be pushing for the EU to impose sanctions on “terrorist” settlers in the West Bank, amid escalating violence in the region.
Tanaiste and foreign affairs minister Micheal Martin said that Ireland is open to considering placing sanctions on such settlers at a national level if the European Union states cannot agree.
He said that the proposed sanctions would apply to the Hamas leadership and “operatives”, as well as to extremist West Bank settlers.
He added that the destruction of a school in the West Bank was a “manifestation” of the terrorising of Palestinians that has been taking place in recent weeks.
The Tanaiste described the humanitarian catastrophe in Gaza as “absolutely dire”, and said Israel’s bombardment of the enclave was “resulting in death and misery on an unacceptable scale”.
“To witness the loss of the lives of so many children, I think, is absolutely horrifying,” he said.
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said that it is Ireland’s “very strong view” that there is no military solution to the conflict between Israel and Palestine.
“Very concerned about the loss of life in the Gaza district, for the potential for starvation, for disease,” he said, speaking in Co Galway.
The Israeli military operation on the Gaza strip was launched in the wake of an attack by Hamas militants on October 7 that resulted in the deaths of over 1,000 Israeli citizens.
Around 17,000 Palestinians have reportedly been killed in the bombardment that has seen food and medical supplies severely limited and concerns about sanitation raised.
“If you read any of the analysis in respect of the bombardment, the size of the bombs that have been dropped, the frequency of the bombing, the destruction of houses – close to 60% of all homes now destroyed – thousands of people killed, the large majority of those children, that’s unacceptable from any humanitarian perspective,” he said.
Ireland, Spain, Belgium and Malta are to push for a humanitarian ceasefire to be implemented in Gaza.
Mr Martin was speaking at a meeting of foreign affairs ministers in Brussels, where Israel’s bombardment of Gaza and Russia’s ongoing invasion of Ukraine are to be discussed.
“In the context of the West Bank, we’re very worried in terms of what is transpiring and the extreme violence of settlers in the West Bank who are terrorising Palestinians, causing the displacement of Palestinians, attacking schools and demolishing schools,” he told media.
“We will be calling for sanctions to be applied to extreme terrorist settlers on the West Bank, we’ll be calling for that today.”
“There could be very specific sanctions because what the settlers are doing in the West Bank is undermining any possibility of a contiguous two-state solution to the Middle East, which we believe is the only viable solution at the end of the day, and the constant attacking and displacement of Palestinians in the West Bank undermines what is declared policy of the European Union, which is a two-state solution.
“It also runs the risk of provoking a further implosion in the West Bank, which is the last thing we need right now. And it’s interesting that the United States have led the way on that particular issue and Europe should be very clear and following on that.”
When asked about whether Ireland would move unilaterally to impose sanctions such as travel bans on individuals if the EU agrees not to impose sanctions, Mr Martin said: “Yes we can, and we’re certainly very open to that.”
He said that Ireland aims to agree to measures through Europe because it has more of an impact, but “we want to push that the EU should do it as an entity”.
“We have to be very clear, I think from a European Union level, that we do not in any way find this behaviour by the settlers acceptable but that we must take action to demonstrate both symbolically and in real terms our opposition to what’s going on in the West Bank right now.”
Mr Martin said that he would also be calling for the “unhindered and unconditional resumption” of EU aid to the Palestinian Authority.
Mr Martin said he was “very concerned” that the Commission is holding up or delaying development aid to Palestinians, adding that despite a quadrupling of humanitarian aid to Palestine being announced, “on the ground that’s still not getting through”.
“We don’t want any additional conditionality and I’ll be saying that today, making that very clear because it makes no sense,” he said.