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Saturday 25 February 2017

Political parties and campaigners unite in criticism of 'rogue state'

Michael Brennan Political Correspondent

POLITICAL parties and campaign groups last night united in their condemnation of Israel in the wake of the commando attack that claimed the lives of at least nine Gaza-bound peace activists.

The strongest criticism came from the three politicians who were denied their opportunity to board the ships carrying humanitarian aid when they flew to Cyprus last weekend.

Fianna Fail TD Chris Andrews said the Israeli government's defence of its soldiers' actions was akin to British spinning after the shooting of innocent people in Bloody Sunday in Derry in 1972.

"Israeli attempts to justify this completely disproportionate action are quite simply appalling. The people travelling on the flotilla are ordinary citizens attempting to highlight the plight of the Palestinian people subjected to abject poverty at Israel's behest," he said.

Unsuccessful

Mr Andrews, along with Fianna Fail Senator Mark Daly and Sinn Fein TD Aengus O Snodaigh had tried last week to board one of the ships heading for Gaza in Cyprus.

They were followed everywhere by the Cypriot police, who ensured their attempts to board the ship at ports in Larnica and Limassol were unsuccessful.

They even travelled across the border of the divided island to the port city of Famagusta but were unable to commandeer a boat to link up with one of the Gaza ships.

Mr O Snodaigh claimed their presence would have been unlikely to deter the Israelis.

"One of the scenarios was that there might have been a blockage of the ships but we didn't expect a full military onslaught on a ship and people to be dead and seriously injured," he said.

Fianna Fail Senator Mark Daly said the group had all been trained by the 'Free Gaza' movement on how to cope if there had been a raid.

"We were all told 'Do not react in any way'," he said.

Those describing Israel as a "rogue state" that was in defiance of international law included politicians from Fianna Fail, Labour, the Socialist Party and the National Women's Council (NWC).

The NWC chief executive Susan McKay called for the EU's trade agreement with Israel -- which allows for preferential rates for Israeli imports -- to be suspended

"We cannot tolerate this new evidence that Israel is a rogue state.

"Our sympathies go to the families of those bereaved in this atrocity," she said.

The IMPACT trade union condemned the attack, while Amnesty International has called on Israel to launch an independent investigation into the killings of the peace activists.

Its programmes' director Noeleen Hartigan said Israeli forces clearly appear to have used excessive force.

Labour TD Joe Costello said the use of lethal force by the Israeli commandos was an "international outrage".

"The loss of life and the scores of injuries to those peacefully providing much-needed aid to the Palestinian people has, rightly, sent shockwaves around the world."

Green Party Senator Mark Dearey called on the Israeli authorities to respect the safety of the crew of the Rachel Corrie, the Irish cargo vessel which left from Malta for Gaza last weekend.

"It is their intention, I understand, to proceed with their mission and again it is imperative that Israel gives cast-iron guarantees regarding their safe passage," he said.

Irish Independent

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