Belfast Telegraph

Nobel winner Mairead Maguire in impassioned plea to end Gaza siege

By Adrian Rutherford and Claire Williamson

A Northern Ireland Nobel Peace Prize winner has launched a savage attack on Israel's bombing of Gaza, accusing it of carrying out war crimes and "a slow genocide" of its people.

Mairead Maguire was jointly awarded the 1976 Peace Prize for her efforts to end violence in Northern Ireland.

Her niece and two nephews lost their lives and her sister was seriously injured when a car ploughed into them after a soldier shot dead the IRA man driving it.

She and Betty Williams later helped to found the Peace People, a grassroots movement of Catholics and Protestants dedicated to ending the sectarian strife gripping the country.

Although the movement dwindled away, Mrs Maguire has continued to campaign for peace, visiting troubled spots around the world.

She has been highly critical of the Israeli government's policy towards Gaza.

Speaking to the Belfast Telegraph, she accused Israel of carrying out war crimes.

"What is happening in Gaza is a siege, a horrific siege, and an occupation and a slow genocide of a young people," she said.

"What Israel is doing today in Gaza, using weapons against civilians, is a war crime.

"The international community should be acting and doing more to insist Israel lifts the siege, ends the occupation and stops the slow genocide of the children of Gaza."

The veteran campaigner, now 70, said it was "shameful" that the international community was not stopping Israel.

Mrs Maguire said the "political will for peace" wasn't there for Israel.

"Israel has chosen land instead of peace. On every occasion when there has been an opportunity for dialogue and negotiation for peace, Israel has launched military attacks against Gaza and the West Bank."

She added: "We know in Northern Ireland just how difficult and complex these situations are, but we also know that they can't be solved through militarism and violence, and that includes Hamas as well."

In June 2010, the Nobel Laureate's ship was blocked from delivering aid supplies to Gaza.

She was deported with fellow campaigners from the MV Rachel Corrie after the vessel was seized by Israelis as it attempted to break the blockade of Gaza.

Mrs Maguire also tried to get in to Gaza after she was invited to attend international women's peace day this year.

However, she was stopped at Cairo Airport before she could attempt to enter via the Rafah Crossing.

"This whole, complete cut-off to anyone from outside who wants to go in and help people is totally illegal, but Egypt is complicit with the Israeli government in keeping this siege going," she said.

Despite the setbacks, Mrs Maguire has pledged to return to the war-torn territory and renew her efforts to help them.

"All we can do is go there, give them hope and tell them to keep working for peace and not to support violence, because it doesn't work," she said.

"Look at Northern Ireland. People said we would never stop the violence, but we did, and it can be done between Israel and Palestine."

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