IRELAND HAS become the first country inside the European Union to define the Israeli settlement in Palestinian territory as annexation.
It follows a period of intense violence in the region with 262 people killed in Palestine, including 65 children over a period of 11 days, as well as 12 people including two children, in Israel.
The bloodshed began when Hamas fired rockets at Israel after calling for Israeli forces to vacate the Al Aqsa region.
In retaliation, Israel launched multiple airstrikes along the highly contested and densely populated Gaza Strip. A ceasefire has since been agreed but remains precarious.
Reflecting on the violent scenes witnessed, Sinn Féin foreign affairs spokesperson John Brady put forward a cross-party motion in the Dáil to recognise “that the crime of de facto annexation is taking place in the occupied Palestinian territories”, and assert that “Israel is acting illegally under international law”.
The motion was passed albeit with Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney calling for an amendment to include Sinn Féin’s condemnation of the attacks launched by Hamas on Israel.
Coveney noted that the cross-party motion was “a clear signal of the depth of feeling across Ireland” on the matter adding that the Government shares the “grave concern” of Sinn Fein.
More significantly, he described the “scale, pace and strategic nature” of Israel’s settlement action as tantamount to ‘de facto annexation’.
He told the Dáil that a return to "business as usual" and the expansion of illegal settlements in the occupied Palestinian territory cannot be accepted.
“We cannot return to the flouting of international law, with the expansion of illegal settlements into occupied Palestinian territory,” he said.
“We cannot return to forced evictions of Palestinians from their homes in East Jerusalem and other parts of the West Bank.
"It is de facto annexation.
"This is not something we say lightly. We are the first EU member state to do so. But it reflects the huge concern that we have about the intent of the actions and their impact."
Coveney was, however, “deeply troubled” by Sinn Féin’s refusal “to call on Hamas to respect international law” and to condemn the aggressive actions of the militant organisation.
An amendment was subsequently included before it was passed in the Dáil.