Martin to attempt Gaza Strip visit

FOREIGN Affairs Minister Micheál Martin is expected to attempt to enter the Gaza Strip tomorrow.

It will be his first visit to the enclosed Palestinian territory and his second attempt after the Israeli government refused him entry in December.

Mr Martin is in Cairo, Egypt, today for scheduled talks with his counterpart Ahmed Aboul Gheit to discuss efforts at reviving peace talks in the region. He will also discuss economic and trade issues between Ireland and Egypt.

A meeting with secretary general Amr Moussa of the Arab League is also scheduled today.

The potential visit to Gaza comes amid the international fallout over the killing of a senior Palestinian leader in Dubai, in which assassins are believed to have used at least five fake Irish passports.

Media reports in Dubai speculated last night that another four passports, including two Irish, may have been used by the killers.

The department said in a statement: “The use of at least five Irish passports has been confirmed by the Dubai authorities.

“But the investigation is ongoing and we cannot rule out the possibility of further developments.”

Confirmation of the development would bring to seven the number of fake Irish passports used in the killing of Hamas commander Mahmoud Mabhouh.

Mr Martin is expected to visit aid efforts being carried out by the United Nations Relief Works Agency if he enters Gaza.

Mr Martin was refused entry by Israel into Gaza in December, with the Israelis insisting it was for security reasons.

This will be his first visit to the enclosed enclave and the first by an Irish minister since Israel’s military offensive against Gaza in late 2008, which left more than 1,000 Palestinians dead.

It is expected to be a humanitarian visit and not a political one, in which Martin will visit operations partly funded by Irish aid.

Up to 80% of the 1.5 million Palestinians in Gaza are heavily dependent on aid.

UNRWA say the blockade by the Israelis was stepped up three years ago when Hamas took power and even more since the Israeli military offensive in late 2008 and that conditions have deteriorated rapidly there.

Irishman Aidan O’Leary, UNRWA’s deputy chief in Gaza, said the building of hundreds of houses was frozen because the Israelis would not allow aid trucks to bring simple materials like cement into the enclosed territory.


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