Saturday 24 February 2018

The cycle of destruction in Gaza 
must be broken, urges Higgins

President Michael D Higgins
President Michael D Higgins
Nicola Anderson

Nicola Anderson

President Michael D Higgins has urged the international community to end the cycle of destruction in 
Gaza in the wake of the shattered ceasefire, warning that the entire region is now 

He said something "beyond a ceasefire and beyond the talks taking place in Cairo" was needed.

Mr Higgins said that a secretariat needed to be set up in line with what happened in Northern Ireland where the talks were saved several times by keeping the process going "when people weren't willing to speak to each other."

Israel launched air strikes across the Gaza Strip yesterday in response to Palestinian rockets after Egyptian-mediated talks failed to extend a 72-hour truce in a month-long war.

Foreign Affairs Minister Charlie Flanagan also expressed his regret at the breakdown of the ceasefire. "The continuing suffering of ordinary people and the humanitarian catastrophe that is unfolding in Gaza are totally unacceptable. I once again urge a cessation of all violence and active participation by both sides in the crucial talks under way in Cairo," he said.

Speaking at the Dublin Horse Show, President Higgins, who has visited Gaza a total of four times over the years, said he was "very familiar with this conflict that has gone on far too long".

And while he "no longer comments on different government's policy", he said that when he was a politician he had said that the reason no progress was being made was because of the absence of a secretariat to bring forward the talks.

"How could one not be heartbroken at seeing the death of so many children and so many civilians," President Higgins added: "Of course the majority of those are Palestinians."

He said we were now in "the third generation of heartbreak" in Gaza, saying: "I think one's heart is broken again and again."

The President (pictured) said that it was "totally unsatisfactory from any 
humanitarian point of view" that there are "flashes of 
interest" in and out of Gaza when an initiative fails and then disinterest until there is another eruption.

"I think the contradiction of that is a great failure of diplomacy because if you're going to spend billions on building schools and medical facilities to see them razed, 
rebuilt again and razed to the ground," he said.

"You will not break that cycle until you commit yourself to continuity - let us learn from that."

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said in a statement he was deeply disappointed an extension of the ceasefire could not be agreed, and he condemned the renewed rocket fire at Israel.

"The secretary-general firmly calls on the parties not to 
resort to further military action that can only exacerbate the already appalling humanitarian situation in Gaza," the UN said.

Israel had earlier said it was ready to agree to an extension as Egyptian go-betweens pursued negotiations with Israeli and Palestinian delegates.

Irish Independent

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