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Israel has to be held to account, Irish deputy PM says as Gaza death toll climbs

Ireland’s deputy premier has said that Israel “has to be held to account” as Palestinian deaths in the Gaza enclave reached 25,000, according to local health authorities.

“Israel has to be held to account in terms of what it’s doing,” Tanaiste Micheal Martin said on RTE Radio.

“I condemn the continued bombardment of Gaza. It is shocking. It’s horrifying. It’s not justified in any shape or form.”

The foreign affairs minister defended his government’s stance in relation to a case taken by South Africa accusing Israel of genocide at the International Court of Justice (ICJ).

Mr Martin said: “It’s already being investigated by the International Criminal Court (ICC) in respect of war crimes, which can include genocide, so is already under investigation.”

He said that Ireland had made legal submissions to the ICC about the occupation of parts of the West Bank, and allocated three million euros in additional funding to the court to enable it to investigate allegations of war crimes.

Mr Martin also said that Ireland would consider joining South Africa’s legal case once it has moved past the preliminary stages.

The Tanaiste said: “South Africa have taken a preliminary case to the court (ICJ), Israel have responded, no-one has actually joined that case yet, nor can anyone join it right now – not even Palestine.

“Because the court is going to make a provisional judgment on that to respond to what South Africa has sought, which is exactly what we have sought, the same thing: an immediate cessation of hostilities and war, unimpeded access of humanitarian aid into Gaza.”

He said that Ireland would act the same way it did in relation to an ICJ case where Ukraine accused Russia of violating the Genocide Convention.

Mr Martin said they examined the legal case for around 12 weeks before joining Ukraine’s case.

“And we will give this very serious consideration, of course,” he said of South Africa’s case.

Leo Varadkar
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar (Niall Carson/PA)

“Because these are legal conventions, it will take years to resolve, meanwhile, we have to keep our focus on getting a ceasefire.”

Mr Martin said that he would be seeing what can be done at EU level “to get stronger pressure on Israel to stop”.

Irish premier Leo Varadkar has said the Irish government does not intend to join South Africa’s case, saying there is a need to “be very careful” in defining genocide.

He said: “I would be a little bit uncomfortable about accusing Israel, a Jewish state, of genocide given the fact that six million Jews – over half the population of Jews in Europe – were killed.

“I would just think we need to be a little bit careful about using words like that unless we’re absolutely convinced that they’re the appropriate ones.”

Under the Genocide Convention, genocide is defined as acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group.