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Response to Gaza 'lily-livered'

Tanaiste Joan Burton has defended her Cabinet colleagues against accusations of a limp and lily-livered response to the slaughter in Gaza.

Both Fianna Fail and Sinn Fein have demanded the government summon the Israeli ambassador in Dublin over the latest escalation of violence in the region.

Over the past nine days, 227 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli air strikes - predominantly civilians, according to the United Nations - while one Israeli died from a rocket attack.

During leaders' question time in the Dail, Sinn Fein deputy leader Mary Lou McDonald accused Ms Burton and the coalition of an "entirely limp and lily-livered" response to the bloodshed.

"It's not sufficient for government or any minister to simply issue a statement on this matter, there is actually an obligation to act," she said.

"It's long past time that the Irish government said to the Israeli administration, 'you cannot act with impunity'."

Ms McDonald accused the Irish government of prioritising advice to Irish citizens travelling or working in the Middle East, rather than condemning the "murdering of Palestinian children".

The disparity in power in the conflict is very clear, she said.

But Ms Burton said Ireland's interest is to see an end to violence on both sides, adding that officials have been in direct contact with Israel about a potential ceasefire.

"You would want to have a heart of stone not to be moved by the appalling deaths of young children over this period of escalating violence," she added.

"I think that everybody in this house is deeply concerned, upset and grieved by what we have witnessed."

Ms Burton said the Irish government had no problem in meeting with the Israeli ambassador to Ireland Boaz Modai.

Fianna Fail frontbencher Charlie McConalogue said the latest temporary cessation of violence was too little and accused Israel of totally disproportionate attacks on Gaza.

"The Government should invite the Israeli ambassador in immediately to express our concerns in a clear and forthright manner," he said.

"We may be a small country, but we do like every other country have a lot to offer in relation to our views on this and doing our bit to bring a resolution to the situation."