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Israel blinded by rage says Varadkar, as Government hardens stance on Gaza

Criticism of ‘rogue state’ comes amid fears it is about to attack city of Rafah, where more than a million Palestinian refugees have taken shelter

There has been a hardening of the Irish Government’s criticism of Israel’s actions in Gaza, with Taoiseach Leo Varadkar saying it has become “blinded by rage” and Minister for Enterprise Simon Coveney suggesting it is “behaving like a rogue state”.

The rhetoric from Dublin comes amid fears that Israel will invade the southern Gaza city of Rafah, where more than a million war refugees are holed up in temporary shelters.

Egyptian officials reported some progress in talks held in Cairo on Tuesday in an effort to reach a ceasefire and a release of some of the 134 hostages captured during the Hamas attack on Israel on October 7th, but a breakthrough is still not imminent.

Senior officials from the US, Israel, Egypt and Qatar met after Egypt reportedly warned Hamas that if there is no deal in the next few weeks, Israel will invade Rafah.


Israel does not have a right to do what it is continuing to do in Gaza now where there are huge civilian casualties

United Nations secretary general António Guterres said he hopes talks will be successful and an Israeli offensive in Rafah can be avoided, warning that it would have “devastating consequences”.

Speaking in the Dáil, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said there was a “serious risk of a massacre” occurring in Rafah.

“That would be a gross violation of international law, on top of all of the other violations of international law, which Israel is responsible for,” he said.

The Fine Gael leader said the Government had taken action and would take “even more action”.

He added: “The Israeli government does not listen to us, doesn’t listen to the world, probably doesn’t even listen to the Americans any more, and that’s what makes the situation all the more dangerous.”

Mr Varadkar said the Government was in discussions with other EU member states, with Spain being the main country, about recognising Palestinian statehood.

Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs Micheál Martin separately said that Ireland is pushing “strongly” within the EU to bring in sanctions against Israeli settlers in the West Bank.

He said one or two countries are “holding out”, but “it would be very powerful if the Union in its entirety imposed travel bans similar to what the United States has done”.

Elsewhere, Minister for Enterprise Simon Coveney criticised Israeli actions, saying: “It is not acceptable effectively to behave like a monster to defeat a monster”.

He said the October 7th Hamas attack on Israel was terrorist and “abhorrent”, adding that Israel had a right to defend itself.

“But it does not have a right to do what it is continuing to do in Gaza now where there are huge civilian casualties, women and children being blown up on a nightly basis”.

A Government spokesman said the comments from senior Coalition figures were “a reflection of the seriousness with which the Government and many other nations treat the appalling situation in Gaza”.

He denied Ireland’s approach to the conflict has changed, saying: “Our policy has been consistent throughout. It’s been: release the hostages, get aid in, and stop the fighting, stop the killings as soon as possible.”

It would be very powerful if the European Union in its entirety imposed travel bans similar to what the United States has done

Mr Martin will meet Philippe Lazzarini, the commissioner general of UNRWA, the United Nations aid agency for helping Palestinian refugees, in Dublin on Thursday.

Several countries, including the US and UK, suspended financing for the agency after Israel last month accused a dozen of its employees of involvement in Hamas’s October 7th attack. The UN has announced an investigation into the allegations.

Ireland continues to fund UNRWA amid concern over the humanitarian situation in Gaza. Some €18 million was provided to the agency by Ireland last year.

Mr Martin signalled that Ireland’s contribution to UNRWA in 2024 could increase, but he said the figure has not yet been decided upon.

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Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn is a Political Correspondent at The Irish Times

Mark Weiss

Mark Weiss

Mark Weiss is a contributor to The Irish Times based in Jerusalem

Sarah Burns

Sarah Burns

Sarah Burns is a reporter for The Irish Times

Jack Horgan-Jones

Jack Horgan-Jones

Jack Horgan-Jones is a Political Correspondent with The Irish Times