A TUV election candidate has become embroiled in a row over his strongly-worded support for the Israeli blockade of Gaza.
David Vance, who stood for the hardline unionist party in East Belfast, said he hoped Israel would “deal with” the Irish boat MV Rachel Corrie with “no messing about” this time.
He also claimed the ship, which is currently making its way to Gaza, is “full of Hamas enablers”.
His comments on Twitter have been denounced by SDLP Assemblyman Conall McDevitt.
The South Belfast MLA said the “no messing about” remark “can only be taken as incitement to even tougher military action than that which left nine people dead and 35 injured”.
Mr McDevitt also said: “The people he refers to as ‘Hamas-enablers' are carrying cement to rebuild schools and hospitals in Gaza bombed to rubble by Israeli Defence Forces.
“They are carrying crutches and wheelchairs — both on the Israeli list of banned imports — for the many children left disabled by last year's attack.”
The MLA added: “UN agencies have certified that Israel is only allowing one quarter of what Gaza needs through the ports it controls.
“Incendiary remarks which incite violence have no place in this crisis and must be withdrawn.”
But Mr Vance strongly defended his position, saying: “Gaza is a terrorist controlled enclave, run by an organisation committed to the destruction of Israel.”
He said he hoped the ship is prevented from breaking the blockade of Gaza and is “promptly escorted away from this area”.
Mr Vance said the Hamas charter included pledges on Jihad and “death for the cause of Allah”.
He added: “In Northern Ireland we may have given up on opposing evil terrorists.
“Israel has chosen to defend itself from Hamas and I stand 100% behind Israel.
“I trust Mr McDevitt can now explain why the SDLP seeks to give succour to Hamas?
“It is interesting how Irish nationalists seem intent to provide succour to ‘Hamastan’. The hate-filled ideology of Hamas holds no fears for them.”
Mr Vance received 1,856 votes in East Belfast in last month's General Election.