BRUSSELS - Irish premier Leo Varadkar has said that some of Israel’s actions in Gaza were “something more approaching revenge”.
The Taoiseach reiterated his belief that Israel has a right to defend itself, and to “go after Hamas”, but said what he is “seeing unfolding at the moment isn’t just self-defence”.
He said Israel will not consider Ireland a close friend or ally as it has a different stance on Palestine than most western countries.
“I strongly believe that, like any state, Israel has the right to defend itself, has the right to go after Hamas so that they cannot do this again,” he told Irish media in South Korea.
“But what I’m seeing unfolding at the moment isn’t just self-defence, it looks, resembles, something more approaching revenge.
“That’s not where we should be and I don’t think that’s how Israel will guarantee its future freedom and its future security.”
Mr Varadkar made the comments at the conclusion of a diplomatic mission that he and three ministers were fronting, as part of an Irish “big bang” strategy to improve relations with less-visited countries.
More than 9,000 Palestinians have been killed in the Gaza Strip since October 7, when Hamas militants launched rockets, killed 1,400 Israeli citizens and took around 200 hostages to Gaza.
Israel has carried out a military response in the wake of the atrocities; on Friday its troops were engaged in an encirclement of Gaza City in an effort to attack Hamas’s operations in the enclave it rules.
Aid agencies are now battling a humanitarian crisis in Gaza with limited resources.
US secretary of state Antony Blinken arrived in Israel on Friday to press for more humanitarian aid to be allowed into Gaza.
Meanwhile, some dual nationals and injured citizens have been able to leave the war-ravaged region through Egypt’s Rafah crossing this week; around 35 Irish passport-holders remain in the territory.
On Thursday, Ireland’s president said that “collective punishment” cannot be accepted and there must be a push for verified facts in relation to the Israel-Hamas conflict.
Michael D Higgins said that those who want to uphold international law “must press for an independent verification of the facts”, and that lives lost should “not reduced to competing press releases”.
Mr Higgins said that if international law is to be upheld, the hostages should be released and an immediate humanitarian ceasefire should come into effect.