Israel has become a country “blinded by rage waging a war on children”, an Irish government minister has said.
Minister for Higher Education Simon Harris slammed the attack by Hamas on Israel in October as despicable.
However he said while Israel had the right to defend itself, it was not waging a war on children.
Mr Harris was speaking in the Irish Parliament on Tuesday, following a question from Labour leader Ivana Bacik.
She referred to the “appalling loss of civilian life on the streets of Gaza”, and urged the Irish government to reflect on removing diplomatic status from the Israeli ambassador and ensuring the actions of both Hamas and Israel are investigated by the International Criminal Court.
Mr Harris described the situation as “the most serious and important of issues of our time and in our world today”
He said he is proud of the stance of the Irish Government in being one of the first to call for a humanitarian ceasefire, and that Tanaiste Micheal Martin is travelling to Egypt, Israel and the occupied Palestinian territory.
He said Mr Martin will “continue that diplomatic work, that call for peace, that quest for a ceasefire and crucially the protection for Irish citizens trapped in Gaza”.
Mr Harris went on: “There’s absolutely no doubt that what Hamas did was despicable, we’ve all condemned it, it deserves absolute condemnation, it was an act of terror on the people of Israel … of course Israel had a right to defend itself but that original right to defend itself has now become in my view a war on children – and you cannot build peace on the mass graves of children.
“It is unfortunate that a country has become blinded by rage
“We differ in relation to our views on the ambassador … diplomacy is not the equivalent of endorsement and I know you know that you don’t just talk to those that you agree with. In fact, all too often it’s more important to talk to those whom you are in disagreement with.
“We have to be very conscious when we talk about Israel and the Israeli ambassador that there’s around 400 Irish troops on peacekeeping missions in the region, we have to be conscious of the fact that there’s around 40 Irish citizens trapped in Gaza and we have to be conscious of the fact that there’s an Irish Israeli girl currently held hostage so we need to keep we need to keep talking.
“We know that if we expelled an ambassador here, they’d expel our ambassador there. It would make it a lot less productive in terms of the work that we have to do.”