Irish Minister for Foreign Affairs Michael Martin has told an Irish Government committee that his official request to visit Gaza was refused by the Israeli authorities.

"I just wanted to go in and see Gaza" said Minister Martin.

A spokesperson for the Israeli embassy said that Martin was "always welcome" to Israel.

However the spokesperson added:  “It is not the appropriate time to visit Gaza because of the Hamas terrorist regime that controls it. This can pose a . . . security risk."

It is not the first time a European Minister has being refused entry to Gaza.

Chairman of the Dáil Committee on European Affairs Bernard Durkan felt that the move by Israel to block a foreign minister from visiting Gaza was "totally intolerable" and that an Irish minister's request "to assess a humanitarian situation is almost without precedent and is tantamount to censorship."

Durkan also voiced his opposition to the blockade of Gaza, which is vehemently opposed by the Irish and Europeans alike.  

“The continuing blockade of Gaza by Israel is utterly unjustified." He also said Israel was "unwilling to let the outside world see the suffering which is going on."

Minister Martin went on to outline his position on the Palestinian crisis and indicated that the "international community may need to reconsider what further pressure" it can exert on Israel to solve and bring about a "two-state settlement". He also said the humanitarian conditions in Gaza were  "completely unacceptable".

Israel was condemned in a recent Human Rights report in which they were accused of committing war crimes during the short Israeli incursion into Gaza in late 2008 and early 2009.

Minister Martin has asked the Israeli government to provide "further clear evidence" that it was serious about bringing about peace in Palestine. He fears Israel is more concerned with "managing what I fear could well escalate into a situation of incipient conflict."