Irish deputy premier warns Rafah ground invasion would be ‘catastrophic’

Ireland’s deputy premier has said a ground invasion in Rafah would be “absolutely catastrophic” as he called on the EU to review whether Israel is complying with human rights obligations in its trade agreement with the bloc.

Speaking ahead of a meeting of the EU Foreign Affairs Council on Monday, Micheal Martin said everything possible must be done to pressure the Israeli government not to send the military into the area of south Gaza.

He added: “We’ve over one and a half million people crowded into a very small corner of Gaza.

“They’re weary, they’re exhausted from moving from the north to the centre and onto the south of Gaza.

“They have nowhere else to go.

“There are thousands of children who have been without school for months. The trauma that they have gone through is extraordinary. How could anyone contemplate adding to that trauma? That is beyond me, it is simply an inhumane act.”

Israel Palestinians
Palestinians search for survivors after an Israeli airstrike on a residential building in Al Zawayda, central Gaza Strip (AP)

He added: “Hamas should lay down its arms. What Hamas is doing is absolutely unacceptable and we’ve condemned Hamas’ activities from the beginning.”

Mr Martin said he would be arguing that the European Commission should be clear about restoring funding to the UN aid agency for Palestinians.

Ireland recently pledged 20 million euro (£17 million) in support for UNRWA while expressing concern that the agency’s major donors continued to suspend their funding.

The aid agency, which provides essential services, including healthcare and education in Gaza, is facing an uncertain future after Israel alleged that 12 of its staff were involved in the October 7 attack, which led to key donors withdrawing their funding.

Mr Martin said it is was not possible to deliver medical and educational systems in Gaza without UNRWA.

He added that UNRWA was necessary for the distribution of vital supplies in the region now and in the aftermath of the conflict.

Mr Martin also said Ireland would be reiterating its call for the Commission to review whether Israel is complying with its human rights obligations under the EU-Israel trade agreement.

He said it would be “very challenging” to convince other EU member states of Ireland’s position.

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