Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams yesterday called for solidarity with the people of Gaza in the wake of the Israeli bombardment of the region, which has killed at least 270 people and wounded hundreds more.
His party appealed to Israel to immediately end its attacks on Gaza and for international political pressure to be applied on the Israeli government to end hostilities.
Mr Adams said: “People in Ireland and across the world have been horrified by the events in Gaza, particularly as they occur during this time of the year when the thoughts of millions are focused on the Holy Land.
“The cause of peace and stability in the Middle East can only be damaged by this latest outrage. I would urge all parties and groups in the region to accept inclusive dialogue and political negotiation as the most effective pathway to peace and for all acts of military aggression to end.”
Rev Aian Ferguson, President of the Methodist Church in Ireland, said: “While recognising the right of the Israeli government to protect their own citizens, their retaliatory force far exceeded that inflicted on them by the Hamas rockets from Gaza.
“Today's action has left many mothers in Gaza crying for their dead children in the same way St Matthew records Rachel crying for her slaughtered children in Ramah, when these innocent children had been slaughtered by Herod in his desire to kill the new born King, Jesus.
“The leaders of Hamas should also recognise that even one person killed by their rocket attacks against Israel is one death too many.”
British Foreign Secretary David Miliband said an “urgent ceasefire” was needed to stop the “massive loss of life” in the territory.
He insisted that Tel Aviv must abide by its “humanitarian obligations”, and said he and Prime Minister Gordon Brown were following the situation with “grave concern”.
Mr Miliband added: “The rise in rocket attacks on Israel since December 19, and yesterday’s massive loss of life, make this a dangerous moment which should be of concern to the the international community. The UK supports an urgent ceasefire and immediate halt to all violence.”
Meanwhile, Pope Benedict XVI has decried the “endless” bloodshed in the Holy Land and urged all sides to end violence, as Israel continued its deadly assault on Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip.
Pope Benedict told pilgrims in St Peter’s Square that he feels deep sorrow for “the dead, wounded, property damage, suffering and tears of the populations who are victims of this succession of attacks and retaliation”.
The pontiff condemned the attacks and renewed his Christmas Day appeal that negotiations replace “the perverse logic of clashes and violence”.