Ireland dresses down Israeli ambassador over Gaza border deaths

Irish FM tells Ze’ev Boker of his government’s ‘shock and dismay’ at the dozens of fatalities; China calls for restraint, Moscow expresses concern

Ireland's Foreign Affairs Minister, Simon Coveney, speaks to the media, at Iveagh House in Dublin, August 16, 2017. (Brian Lawless/PA via AP)
Ireland's Foreign Affairs Minister, Simon Coveney, speaks to the media, at Iveagh House in Dublin, August 16, 2017. (Brian Lawless/PA via AP)

Ireland summoned Israeli Ambassador Ze’ev Boker Tuesday to communicate its “shock and dismay” over the deaths of dozens of Palestinians during clashes with Israeli security forces along the border with the Gaza Strip the day before.

Foreign Minister Simon Coveney “summoned the Israeli ambassador to Ireland… to express Ireland’s shock and dismay at the level of death and injury yesterday on the Gaza Strip,” the ministry said in a statement.

Coveney also asked for “restraint from Israel in the hours and days ahead,” the foreign ministry said. “The ambassador has been informed of Irish demands for an independent international investigation into yesterday’s deaths led by the UN.”

The ministry said Irish officials in Ramallah reported that health services in Gaza, already stretched because of a lack of equipment and essential medicines, were “overwhelmed with the level of casualties.”

Boker has been informed of Ireland’s demands for an independent international investigation led by the UN, the ministry spokesman said, noting that the minister was “very disturbed” by injuries to health workers tending to the injured in the clashes.

Israel’s Foreign Ministry confirmed the meeting took place but declined to comment on the content of the conversation.

Israel’s ambassador to Ireland, Ze’ev Boker. (Israel Foreign Ministry)

The UN Security Council was scheduled to hold an emergency meeting on the situation in Gaza later in the day. On Monday the US blocked the adoption of a Security Council statement that would have called for an independent probe of the violence.

Gaza’s Hamas-run health ministry said Tuesday that 60 Palestinians were killed and more than 2,700 were wounded the day before amid the biggest riots and rallies in a weeks-long campaign of protests against Israel, known collectively as the “March of Return.”

Tens of thousands of Palestinians attended Hamas-organized protests on the Gaza border and hundreds of others clashed with Israeli troops on the outskirts of Jerusalem and in other locations in the West Bank, marking the 70th anniversary of what they call the Nakba, or “catastrophe,” of Israel’s creation in 1948, as well as protesting the relocation of the US embassy to Israel’s capital on Monday afternoon.

Israel has said the Hamas terror group was planning to use the border protests to breach the fence and carry out attacks in Israeli territory. It had warned that it would stop a possible border breach at all costs, telling protesters that they were putting their own lives in peril.

Russia and China on Tuesday also raised concerns over the deadly violence.

“The situation, particularly the deaths of many dozens of Palestinians, cannot but provoke the deepest concern,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told journalists.

“China is seriously concerned about the large number of casualties caused by the violent conflict in the Gaza border,” Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Lu Kang told a regular press briefing.

A Palestinian woman holding her national flag looks at clashes with Israeli forces near the border between the Gaza strip and Israel east of Gaza City on May 14, 2018 (AFP PHOTO / MAHMUD HAMS)

“We oppose violence against civilians. We call on both sides, especially Israel, to maintain restraint and avoid further tension and escalation of the situation,” Lu said.

The spokesman reiterated Beijing’s support for a two-state solution, with the establishment of a Palestinian state based on 1967 borders with East Jerusalem as its capital.

“China has always believed that the final status of Jerusalem should be finally settled through peace talks between Palestine and Israel in accordance with the relevant resolutions of the United Nations,” Lu said.

Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirım called on Muslim countries to reassess their relations with Israel due to the deaths, Reuters reported. On Monday the Ankara government issued sharp condemnations of Israel and recalled its envoys from the US and Israel to hold consultations about the events.

An Iranian official charged Tuesday that killing innocent people had become a matter of policy for Israel.

“The killing of children, women and defenseless people of Palestine and the occupation of Palestinian lands has become the main strategy of the Zionists over the 70 years of occupation,” said Iranian foreign ministry spokesman Bahram Ghasemi on the ministry’s website.

He called on the international community to take “immediate action” and try Israeli leaders as “war criminals in international courts.”

Palestinian protesters gathering along the border fence between the Gaza Strip and Israel, May 14, 2018. (JACK GUEZ/AFP)

“The constant and continued crimes of the Zionists in Palestine is the result of the unsparing support of the US,” Ghasemi said.

He accused countries in the region — an apparent reference to Iran’s rival Saudi Arabia — of a “treacherous compromise and undignified passivity” for failing to strongly condemn Israeli actions.

Parliament speaker Ali Larijani said the US decision to move its embassy to Jerusalem was part of its attempts to undermine international institutions, along with its withdrawal from the Paris climate treaty and Iran nuclear agreement.

“All these cases show that America intends to destroy the international institution of the United Nations,” he told parliament on Tuesday.

“It is driving the international scene to a kind of security chaos,” he added.

Fresh protests were also expected on Tuesday as Palestinians continue to mark the Nakba commemorating the more than 700,000 Palestinians who fled or were expelled in the 1948 war surrounding Israel’s creation.

The US decision to transfer its Israel embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, while welcomed by Israel, infuriated the Palestinians and was widely criticized by the international community.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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