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Palestine & Israel

30,000 dead and still the war on Gaza continues

Ireland needs to step up and take action to prevent further devastating loss of life, and we don’t need to wait for the EU

 Civil defense teams and locals carry out search and rescue operations after an Israeli attack hits Shaqwra family apartment in Khan Yunis, Gaza. (Photo by MOHAMMED ZAANOUN) Civil defense teams and locals carry out search and rescue operations after an Israeli attack hits Shaqwra family apartment in Khan Yunis, Gaza. (Photo by MOHAMMED ZAANOUN)

For the last five months, every morning fear rises in me as I reach for my phone. A fear of what may have happened during the night to colleagues living through the ongoing hell in Gaza. My fear is that I will receive a message like I did last Wednesday when devastating news came through that Nour had been killed. 

Nour Abu Nour was one of those inspiring selfless people on this earth who dedicate their lives to the service of others. Nour trained as a lawyer, and worked tirelessly to document human rights abuses in Gaza with the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights. Through a Trócaire-funded project, she worked with women who have survived gender-based violence. Even through the last five months of horror in Gaza, she did not stop her work. 

In fact, on the day she was killed, she had been working to support women who have been forced to flee and find shelter in Rafah in the south of Gaza, where over a million people are living in cramped and desperate conditions. Nour herself had to flee her own home with her entire family and was living and coping with the ongoing trauma of this horrific war. 

After returning from her work, the house where her family were sheltering was struck by an Israeli airstrike without warning. Nour was killed. Her two-year-old daughter was killed. Her parents were killed. Four of her siblings were also killed and dozens more were injured. 

Then two days later, I received similar devastating news. Nour’s colleague Dana Yaghi was killed by another Israeli airstrike, this time along with 40 others. I couldn’t imagine such unspeakable horror and so soon after Nour. Another human rights lawyer killed. Another brave and inspiring colleague gone. Another senseless loss in this ever-spiralling violence. 

Nour and Dana are two of the thirty thousand people who have now been killed in Gaza in the last five months. A grim milestone, a number so large that it is hard to process such pain and loss. The equivalent of the entire population of Naas in County Kildare being killed. The suffering of the people of Gaza is on a scale the world simply hasn’t seen this century. 

It must also be stated clearly that the acts perpetrated by Hamas on October 7th involved callous killings of Israeli civilians and horrific violence against women. We need accountability for those war crimes and an urgent release of the remaining Israeli hostages. Yet what Hamas committed cannot justify collective punishment of the entire population of Gaza.  

Three quarters of the entire population have been forced from their homes. Over 60% of Gaza has been bombed, including hospitals, schools and mosques. People are starving and the World Food Programme is warning that famine is “imminent”. Furthermore, the International Court of Justice is investigating potential genocidal acts by Israel. Simply put, this is revenge, and it is short sighted – it will only serve to fuel more hatred and provide a fertile recruiting ground for Hamas, or similar groups. 

Yet we cannot give up hope, and we cannot lose sight of the role we can all play in fighting for peace and for justice. We desperately need an immediate ceasefire. There are glimmers of hope that we are inching closer to a pause in fighting, and Trócaire with our local partners can only step – up our ongoing vital support when a cease fire is called. We have been providing critical healthcare and humanitarian support during and will continue to after the war on Gaza but the scale and need is at a catastrophic level and access is key. 

But we need a permanent enduring ceasefire and not just a temporary pause. Furthermore, the end of hostilities is only the beginning. We need to seek justice, to seek accountability for war crimes and potential acts of genocide. We need to rebuild Gaza, rebuild people’s lives, and deal with the trauma and devastation. To do so, we need serious political leadership. 

To Ireland’s credit, we have been at the forefront of the EU calling for a permanent ceasefire. Furthermore, the Taoiseach has called for a review of the EU’s trade agreement with Israel on human rights grounds. We should commend Ireland for this leadership role, yet at the same time, we also need to be realistic about what can be achieved within the EU, which is deeply divided on this issue. Ireland must also demonstrate leadership by taking bold actions that don’t require the consensus of a paralysed EU.  

Other states have shown what is possible – we could recognise the State of Palestine, and we can support South Africa’s case at the International Court of Justice to prevent acts of genocide by Israel. We can also put pressure on Israel by unblocking the occupied Territories bill in the Dáil. We should also enshrine in law that state funds, such as the Ireland Strategic Investment Fund, should not be invested in companies connected with Israel’s illegal settlements. I can’t bear the thought that the tax I pay towards my state pension may be helping to fuel the cycle of violence in Palestine and Israel. 

Another message comes in on my phone from Gaza. This time it is my colleague Reema, and thankfully she is safe for now. She sends sporadic messages to let me know she is alive, and her latest message is one imploring the Irish people to “please keep demonstrating, please keep advocating. We are left behind without dignity.” I hope our leaders honour Reema’s call and make us proud that Ireland acted on the right side of history in these darkest of hours. 

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