Irish FM urges EU to pressure Israel to end Gaza blockade
Gaza blockade enriches Hamas and stifles voices of moderation, Martin says.
Ireland's foreign minister on Friday called the Israeli blockade of Palestinian-ruled Gaza inhumane and unacceptable and he urged the European Union and other countries to increase pressure on Israel to end it.
Micheal Martin, who visited Gaza last week, was the first EU foreign minister to enter the Mediterranean coastal strip in over a year, an area that was severely damaged in an Israeli offensive in December 2008.
More than 1,400 Palestinians and 13 Israelis were killed in the three-week war in Gaza, which Israel launched following months of rocket fire from the territory into Israel.
"The tragedy of Gaza is that it is fast in danger of becoming a tolerated humanitarian crisis," Martin wrote in an opinion piece for the International Herald Tribune, describing conditions as medieval, inhumane and utterly unacceptable.
"(It is) a situation that is proving extremely difficult to remedy or ameliorate due to the blockade and the wider ramifications of efforts to try and achieve political progress in the Middle East."
He will raise the issue at a EU foreign ministers meeting in Cordoba, Spain, this weekend, he said. The EU Commission and EU member states are the largest aid donors to Gaza.
A United Nations report by a team headed by South African jurist Richard Goldstone last September said that both the Israeli army and Islamist group Hamas, which controls Gaza, were guilty of war crimes in them conflict but focused more on Israel. Israel, which refused to cooperate with the Goldstone report, condemned it as distorted and biased and rejected the war crimes allegations. Hamas denied its fighters committed war crimes but has said it regrets Israeli civilian deaths.
The United States pressed Israel to ease the blockade last week and Martin said with 80 percent of the population of Gaza now living below the poverty line and over 50 percent out of work, the blockade was counterproductive.
"What I witnessed in Gaza, amidst all the rubble and devastation, was a population traumatized and reduced to poverty by an unjust and completely counterproductive blockade."
"All that is being achieved through the imposition of the blockade is to enrich Hamas and marginalize even further the voices of moderation."