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Unionist Lord Kilclooney under fire as he attacks Israel’s blitz on Gaza

By Noel McAdam

A former deputy leader of the Ulster Unionist Party has come under fire from some unionists after attacking Israel’s bombardment of Gaza as “dreadful”.

Lord Kilclooney’s remarks came as a 24-hour ceasefire between Israel and Hamas broke down yesterday with the resumption of rocket fire.

More than 1,060 Palestinians, mostly civilians, have died in the recent three-week offensive, compared to 43 Israeli soldiers and two Israeli civilians. Questions are growing as to whether Israel is guilty of war crimes.

In an unusual statement from a unionist, the former deputy leader of the party’s Assembly group also said he had been “amazed” by the adoption of the Israeli flag in some loyalist areas of Northern Ireland.

“I often think they haven’t seen the reality of what is happening there,” said Lord Kilclooney.

“I am not an authority on war crime, but what does concern me are the civilians, women and children, who are being slaughtered. It is the slaughter of the innocents. It’s dreadful what Israel has been doing.”

But the former Strangford MP also argued Hamas could “score diplomatically” by recognising the state of Israel’s right to exist, as many other Palestinians do. “The situation on the ground in the West Bank, in Gaza and in east Jerusalem is terrible. It has to be seen to be believed,” he told the BBC’s Sunday Sequence programme.

“I believe that Israel has every right to exist, that its security must be guaranteed, but at the same time that Hamas would score diplomatically if they would agree that Israel had that right to exist. That would begin the negotiations that would lead to a lasting peace.”

Lord Kilclooney said the issue of recognition has strong resonance in Ireland.

He said for decades the Republic refused to recognise Northern Ireland but did so following the 1998 Belfast Agreement and that now there is “great co-operation” between Belfast and Dublin.

The DUP’s Mervyn Storey said, however: “I would take a different view.

“It is awful what is happening and terrible to see such an unfortunate loss of life, but Israel has a right to defend itself against the Hamas terrorist organisation.

“It has to be remembered that Hamas has said it wants to see Israel wiped off the face of the Earth. There is no doubt there is a correlation between the activities of terrorist organisations such as Hamas and the IRA.”

And Progressive Unionist leader Billy Hutchinson said: “We should not be blaming one side or the other. It has to be remembered also that the IRA were in training camps with the Palestine Liberation Organisation and others in the 1970s and when people wave Palestinian flags it gets a reaction. But it is not a clear-cut issue.”

The comments of local politicians came less than 24 hours after more than 500 people took part in a march in Belfast in protest against Israeli actions in Gaza.

Protesters including trade union Unison walked from Botanic Gardens in south Belfast to the US Consulate on Saturday afternoon. In Londonderry, scores of protesters lay down on Shipquay Street in the city centre in a pro-Gaza demonstration.

Further reading

John Prescott condemns Israel's bombardment of Gaza as a 'war crime' 

Pope Francis issues desperate plea to fighters - 'I ask you with all my heart, stop please' 

The secret report that helps Israelis to hide facts 

Gaza war rages despite truce vows

Israel-Hamas ceasefire: At least 60 bodies found in Gaza after 12-hour truce begins

Robert Fisk: What would we do if it had been 35 Palestinian dead, and 800 Israeli? 

Israeli targeting policy under scrutiny after shellfire hits a mother and child, a school full of refugees and a doctor’s home

Israel may have committed war crimes in Gaza, says UN's human rights chief Navi Pillay

Civilian casualties in Gaza tell stories of death and heartbreak 

Deadly flechette shells used by Israeli military in Gaza 

The myth of Hamas’s human shield 

Israel-Gaza conflict: UN chief Ban Ki-moon pushing for ceasefire

Gaza bloodbath claims 500 Palestinian lives in relentless Israeli onslaught

Israel-Gaza conflict: Gaza suffers its deadliest day after ‘heinous massacre’ in Shuja’iya

Scores dead in Gaza ground battle 

Gaza action 'must be proportionate'

Israel more brutal than Hitler: Turkish PM

Thousands gather for Gaza protest

What if British had treated Northern Irish like Israel treats Palestine?

Israel launches Gaza ground offensive as four more Palestinian children are killed including a five-month-old baby

Response to Gaza 'lily-livered'

Gaza children killed as they played football on the beach

Israeli government insists it does not target civilians – the day after four children are killed by shelling

Israel actions 'disproportionate'

Gaza: Four Palestinian boys killed in Israeli rocket attack on beach

The deep-lying racism fuelling the Israeli onslaught

Alexei Sayle: Israel is Jimmy Savile of nation states

' Sderot cinema’ image shows Israelis with popcorn and hookahs 'cheering as missiles strike Palestinian targets'

Gaza back-story: A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory

From the archives

Students offered grants if they make pro-Israel Facebook posts and tweets  

Cameraman in Gaza 'killed by deadly flechettes fired from Israeli tank'

Israel 'used white phosphorus deliberately and recklessly'

Kim Sengupta: Claims that Israel is using white phosphorus illegally won't go away

UN: Israelis hit our headquarters in Gaza with 'white phosphorus' shells 

Dime bombs leave Israel's victims with mystery wounds 

Israel accused of Gaza war crimes in Amnesty report

Gaza: Demolished in three weeks. Rebuilding it will take years

  Outrage as Israel bombs UN HQ, hospital, school and media building

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