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Ireland urges Israel to end 'de facto annexation' of Palestinian land

Foreign minister condemns Israel's 'manifestly unequal' treatment of Palestinians as government supports motion
Israeli forces stop a car at a checkpoint in the occupied West Bank (AFP)

Ireland's government on Tuesday supported a parliamentary motion condemning the "de facto annexation" of Palestinian land by Israeli authorities, in what it said was the first use of the phrase by a European Union government in relation to Israel.

Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney, who has represented Ireland on the United Nations Security Council in debates on Israel in recent weeks, supported the motion and condemned what he described as Israel's "manifestly unequal" treatment of the Palestinian people.

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However, he also insisted on adding a condemnation of recent rocket attacks on Israel by Hamas, which governs Gaza, before he agreed to government support for the motion, which had been tabled by the opposition Sinn Fein party.

"The scale, pace and strategic nature of Israel's actions on settlement expansion and the intent behind it have brought us to a point where we need to be honest about what is actually happening on the ground… It is de facto annexation," Coveney told parliament.

"This is not something that I, or in my view this house, says lightly. We are the first EU state to do so. 

"But it reflects the huge concern we have about the intent of the actions and, of course, their impact."

Dublin protests

Since the 1967 Middle East war, Israel has annexed East Jerusalem and the Syrian Golan Heights in moves never recognised by the international community, occupied the West Bank and besieged the Gaza Strip.

Israeli settlements in land conquered by Israel in the war are deemed illegal under international law. The United States and Israel dispute this.

The motion came days after a ceasefire ended Israel's 11-day Israeli bombardment of Gaza.

'Periodic condemnation is simply not enough'
- Irish Labour party's Brendan Howlin

According to the latest official information from Palestinian and Israeli sources, at least 292 people were been killed between 7 and 21 May, including at least 71 children and 45 women. 

The vast majority were Palestinian: Israeli air strikes on the besieged Gaza Strip killed at least 248 Palestinians.

In Israel, 12 people have been reported killed by rockets launched from Gaza by Hamas, among them two children.

The hostilities began amid Israeli authorities’ crackdown on Palestinians in Jerusalem, first in the Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood, then at al-Aqsa Mosque.

The violence sparked large pro-Palestinian protests around the world, including in Dublin.

'Looked on in horror'

Sinn Fein on Tuesday refused to support the government amendment condemning Hamas attacks.

Sinn Fein parliamentarian Brian Stanley said the world had "looked on in horror" at the violence.

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Fellow TD (MP) Gary Gannon said the Social Democrats were proud to co-sign the motion.

Labour also proudly supported it, TD Brendan Howlin declared.

"Through deliberate, brutal, calculated action" Israel sought to undermine the prospect of an independent Palestinian state, he said.

Welcoming Coveney's words, Howlin said "periodic condemnation is simply not enough".

On Wednesday, parliament will vote on a People Before Profit amendment of the Sinn Fein private members motion, RTE, Ireland's state broadcaster, reported.

If passed, the amendment would require the government to expel the Israeli ambassador to Ireland and seek economic, political and cultural sanctions against Israel.