Irish PM Varadkar says Israel practicing ‘collective punishment’ as Sinn Fein expresses Palestine support

Irish PM Varadkar says Israel practicing ‘collective punishment’ as Sinn Fein expresses Palestine support
3 min read
13 October, 2023
Irish PM Leo Varadkar condemned Hamas but said that Israel has no right to breach international humanitarian law
Varadkar accused Israel of breaching international law in its siege of the Gaza Strip [Getty]

Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar has slammed Israel for imposing a full siege on the Gaza Strip by cutting off electricity and water to the Palestinian enclave. 

During a TV interview with RTÉ's Prime Time programme, Varadkar states that Israel is engaging in ‘collective punishment’ and called the action a violation of international humanitarian law. 

“Israel is under threat. They do have a right to defend themselves, but they don't have the right to breach international humanitarian law,” said Varadkar. 

“To me, it amounts to collective punishment. Cutting off power, cutting off fuel supplies and water supplies, that's not the way a respectable democratic state should conduct itself."

He continued, “I think it is very important for us as Ireland to make sure that voice is brought to the table at European Union level. " 

Varadkar’s comments follow Israeli Energy Minister Israel Katz’s announcement that Israel will  ban any basic resources or humanitarian aid into Gaza until Hamas released the people who were abducted during the surprise attack on Israel over last weekend. 

Katz said, "Humanitarian aid to Gaza? No electric switch will be turned on, no water tap will be opened and no fuel truck will enter until the Israeli abductees are returned home.” 

However, Varadkar also echoed other Western leaders and added Israel had the "right to defend itself", calling Hamas and Hezbollah Israel’s "brutal, savage" enemies. He added that they were "Islamic fundamentalists and anti-Semites". 

Varadkar called on Hamas to release all hostages, and said that Israel was "justified in attacking Hamas in Gaza and elsewhere." 

But he added that "operations that clearly affect civilians disproportionately are wrong." 

Ireland was one of four EU countries, along with the Netherlands, Spain and Luxembourg, who objected to a rogue tweet by Olivér Várhelyi, the European Commissioner in charge of enlargement and neighbourhood, who wrote that ‘all payments’ to the Palestinians had been ‘immediately suspended’. 

The European Commission has since clarified that humanitarian aid will continue to be provided to Gaza by EU member states. 

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In Northern Ireland, Sinn Fein, the largest party in the devolved assembly, has been targeted for criticism by pro-Israeli Unionist politicians for expressing support for Palestinians subjected to Israel's brutal and indiscriminate bombardment.

The party, however has condemned the kidnapping of civilians by Hamas.  

As reported by AFP, Sinn Fein president Mary Lou McDonald said on Monday that "the targeting of civilians and the taking of hostages is to be condemned outright". 

"Looking at scenes at where a lot of young people were out enjoying themselves to meet with such a violent and traumatic death is just truly horrific," she said. 

McDonald however added that "the bombardment now of Gaza is equally to be condemned". 

She said, "The truth is that for decades the Israeli state has breached international law with collective punishment, confiscation of lands, imposing an apartheid regime, denying the Palestinian people their absolute legitimate right to self-determination.”