Belfast Telegraph

Ireland to press Israel on Gaza aid

Ireland will press Israel to let activists bring humanitarian goods into Gaza, Foreign Affairs Minister Eamon Gilmore has said.

Nine people were killed and several injured when Israeli commandos boarded the Mavi Marmara and other boats which were attempting to bring aid to Gaza last May.

Another flotilla of up to 14 aid boats, including one vessel from Ireland, is expected to try to pass the four-year Israeli sea blockade on the anniversary.

Mr Gilmore said diplomats would work with Israel to try to avoid a repetition of the violence but warned against attempts to enter the state by sea.

"Ireland has had a long-standing concern about the humanitarian situation in Gaza and along with the other EU member states we are continuing to press for the full opening up of border crossing into Gaza to allow the normal flow of humanitarian aid and commercial and human traffic," he said.

"Naturally we understand the motivation which gave rise to last year's flotilla, and I understand that another one is now being planned, we will press Israel to do everything possible to facilitate those wishing to transfer humanitarian goods to Gaza and we will work with them to avoid a repetition of the unacceptable violence which occurred last year.

"However the travel advice from the department remains that people should not attempt to enter Gaza at this time and go about breaking the blockade."

Dr Fintan Lane, national co-ordinator for the Irish vessel, said more than 25 Irish citizens will be involved in the flotilla, including Sinn Fein TD Aengus O Snodaigh, United Left Alliance TD Richard Boyd Barrett, Sinn Fein councillor Gerry MacLochlainn from Derry, artist Felim Egan and former Fianna Fail TD Chris Andrews.

The activist said he has requested a meeting with Mr Gilmore to discuss information on the Department of Foreign Affairs' website which advises strongly against all travel to the Gaza Strip or any attempt to enter Gaza by sea, or sailing in the waters off the coast of Gaza.

Mr Gilmore stressed this advice was on the independent assessment of his officials and not influenced by any other country or request.


From Belfast Telegraph