Minister Martin said conditions in Gaza were 'completely unacceptable'

The Israeli government has denied that it refused Irish Foreign Minister Michael Martin permission to visit Gaza as he stated in the Irish media last week.

Martin was quoted as saying he had been denied access to Gaza. "I just wanted to go in and see Gaza," he said adding that that the "international community may need to reconsider what further pressure" it can bring on Israel to bring about a "two-state settlement."

He asked Israel to provide "further clear evidence" that it was serious about peace with the Palestinians, and stated he was concerned that the state was more concerned with "managing what I fear could well escalate into a situation of incipient conflict."

Martin also stated the conditions in Gaza were "completely unacceptable." Ireland is considered one of the most pro-Palestinian states in the European Union.

However, Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor said that he was unaware of a request from Martin to visit Gaza.

"We were in the midst of preparations for his visit in a few weeks, until they asked to postpone the trip because he needed to participate in meetings in parliament. It was agreed that the visit would take place in March." The Jerusalem Post reported that since the Gaza battle with Hamas ended, a number of senior politicians have gone to Gaza, including US Senator John Kerry and Northern Irish Republican leader Gerry Adams.

Israel has a rule, however, that if you visit Gaza and meet Hamas leaders you cannot meet Israeli political leaders on the same trip.