Martin makes Gaza trip

Foreign Affairs Minister Micheál Martin will visit Gaza for the first time today.

The tour will also be the first by an EU foreign minister for a year.

The minister was refused entry by Israel late last year amid fears the trip would legitimise the Hamas administration.

Mr Martin said the purpose of the visit was humanitarian and to witness the conditions on the ground in light of the “completely unacceptable blockade” imposed by Israel.

“I have repeatedly expressed my serious concerns over the situation in Gaza and called for an end to the unjust blockade imposed against its population,” Mr Martin said.

Mr Martin’s delegation will meet Irishman John Ging, head of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) in Gaza.

He will visit a UN food distribution centre, meet with local businessmen to discuss the impact of the Israeli blockade and hold talks with Palestinian human rights activists.

“The Irish public is well aware and extremely proud of the tremendous contribution made by UNRWA and its Irish-born Director of Operations, John Ging, to maintaining humanitarian services for the people of Gaza,” Mr Martin added.

“I am looking forward to seeing UNRWA’s operations at first hand.”

Mr Martin will become the first EU Foreign Minister to gain access to Gaza since his Swedish counterpart Carl Bildt visited last February.

British, French, Turkish and Belgium delegations have all been excluded from entering in recent months.

Almost 1,400 Palestinians and 13 Israelis were killed in the 22-day Gaza War.

Around 20,000 people remain displaced as a result of the conflict, with 70% of the 1.5 million-strong population classed as refugees.

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