Belfast Telegraph

Belfast Jew calls bid to open book of condolence for Gaza dead 'shameful'

By Andrew Madden and David Young

An Orthodox Jew from Belfast has said it is "deeply shameful" that three parties on Belfast City Council tried to open a book of condolence for Palestinians killed in Gaza earlier this week.

Sinn Fein is to open its own book after a request for the council to do so was blocked by the two main unionist parties in Belfast.

Sinn Fein, the SDLP and Alliance were in favour of opening a book of condolence at City Hall after more than 60 Palestinians were killed and thousands were injured by the Israeli defence forces during attacks on the Israeli border organised by Hamas, the group which controls Gaza.

However, according to the rules, a book of condolence can only be opened with the agreement of all parties at City Hall.

It is understood the two main unionist parties were not in favour of opening the book.

Last night, Steven Jaffe of the Northern Ireland Friends of Israel slammed the parties who had supported the proposal for a book of condolence, describing it as "deeply shameful".

"Sinn Fein want to open a book of condolence at Belfast City Hall to 50 terrorists from Hamas and three from Islamic Jihad who died during violent attacks on Israel's border.

"Hamas and Islamic Jihad are vile, Jew-hating radical Islamist groups that want to destroy Israel.

"And the SDLP and the Alliance Party want a book of condolence too. Deeply shameful," he said.

As Hamas yesterday revealed plans to continue its offensive against the Israeli border, Hamas leader Salah Bardawil admitted on television that 50 of the 62 killed on Monday were members of the terror group.

SDLP council group leader Tim Attwood said he was "disappointed" that unionists blocked the book of condolence "to mark the killings and injuries inflicted on the people of Gaza".

"People of Belfast are horrified and wish to express their sympathy at the tragic loss of life," he added.

Sinn Fein's group leader on Belfast City Council, Deirdre Hargey, said her party will be opening its own book of condolence this weekend in the party's room at City Hall, open to all members of the public.

"I requested on Tuesday that a book of condolence be opened in Belfast City Hall for the victims of the massacre carried out by Israeli forces on Palestinians in Gaza. I had hoped that all parties on Belfast City Council would support this request.

"However, the unionist parties have failed to give their support, which is extremely disappointing given the scale of this massacre by Israeli forces.

"This was an atrocity and the brutal nature of the Israeli Army was laid bare for all to see.

"Sinn Fein will not be put off by this unionist refusal to support a book of condolence and we will be opening our own book of condolence this Saturday from 12-5pm in the Sinn Fein room at Belfast City Hall to allow citizens to come to City Hall and show their solidarity and sympathy with the people of Palestine."

Palestinian health officials say more than 100 Palestinians have been killed and 10,000 injured by Israeli troops over the past six weeks in protests along the border between the Gaza Strip and Israel.

Sixty protesters died on Monday alone, when almost 50,000 took part in demonstrations coinciding with the controversial relocation of the US embassy to Jerusalem.

In a recorded message played at the ceremony this week, President Donald Trump said the embassy move was a "long time coming" but he remained committed to peace between Israel and the Palestinians.

"Our greatest hope is for peace. The United States remains fully committed to facilitating a lasting peace agreement," Mr Trump said.

Guatemala also opened an embassy in Jerusalem this week - two days after the USA did so. Israeli Premier Binyamin Netanyahu welcomed the small Central American country's decision to move its embassy to the Israeli capital.

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