Irish PM says Israel actions in Gaza resemble ‘revenge’

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Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar on Friday described Israel’s actions in Gaza as “something approaching revenge”, in some of the strongest criticism of Israel by a leader of a European Union member state.

Gaza health authorities say at least 9,061 people have been killed in Gaza since Israel launched its assault on the enclave of 2.3 million people in retaliation for deadly attacks by Hamas militants on southern Israel.

“I strongly believe that … Israel has the right to defend itself, has the right to go after Hamas, that they cannot do this again,” Varadkar told journalists during a visit to South Korea, according to comments broadcast by state radio RTE.

“What I’m seeing unfolding at the moment isn’t just self-defence. It looks, resembles something more approaching revenge,” Varadkar said.

“That’s not where we should be. And I don’t think that’s how Israel will guarantee future freedom and future security,” he said.

Asked by a journalist whether Israel’s actions were war crimes, Varadkar said “that’s not for me to determine.”

Israel insists it is acting within international law and that its attacks are intended to destroy Hamas, which operates among the civilian population.

The Gaza war has highlighted foreign policy divisions within the EU.

Countries such as France, the Netherlands, Spain, Portugal, Belgium and Ireland have endorsed calls from the United Nations for a break in the conflict for humanitarian reasons.

But others such as Germany, the Czech Republic and Austria have resisted, arguing such a move could curb Israel’s ability to defend itself and let Hamas regroup, according to diplomats.

Ireland has traditionally been one of Western Europe’s strongest critics of Israeli policies towards Palestinians.