Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar said Israel’s response to the October 7 attack by Hamas “resembles something more approaching revenge,” in comments to Irish media on Friday.
The remark during a trip to South Korea came as Israeli troops escalated their assault on Gaza in response to the October 7 attacks by Hamas, which killed 1,400 people, most of them Israeli civilians.
The bombardment of Gaza since has killed more than 9,000 people, the majority ordinary Palestinians, according to the Hamas-run health ministry.
“I strongly believe, like any state, Israel has a right to defend itself, has the right to go after Hamas, so they can not do this again,” Varadkar told reporters in Seoul.
“But what I am seeing unfolding at the moment isn’t just self-defence, it resembles something more approaching revenge and that’s not where we should be and I don’t think it is how Israel will guarantee its future freedom and security.”
Ireland’s stance on the conflict has sometimes been at odds with its Western allies, with Varadkar one of the first EU leaders to call on Israel to ensure its response to Hamas’s attack was “proportionate”.
One dual Irish-Israeli citizen was among the victims of the October 7 attack, Israel’s response to which has stoked fears of a wider regional conflict.
Ireland, which has more than 300 soldiers stationed in Lebanon as part of a UN peacekeeping mission, was one of just eight EU member states to vote for a UN General Assembly resolution calling for a ceasefire in Gaza. Most member states abstained.
Varadkar said he believes that “Israel listens to countries it considers to be friends and allies, like the US”.
But he added that he is “not sure they listen very closely to what we have to say, quite frankly”.
“It is a state we have relations with, but I don’t think we are as close as we might have been or perhaps could be, because we do take a different position than most Western countries on Palestine and what’s happening at the moment,” he said.