"If international law is to [be] respected, it is important that hostages be released and an immediate humanitarian ceasefire be put in place," President of Ireland Michael D. Higgins said in his statement on Thursday, November 2.

Higgins described the loss of life in Gaza and Israel as "horrific" and said that collective punishment cannot be accepted.

"Collective punishment is not something we can accept and claim to be advocates of international law," Higgins said in the statement. 

"It is simply unacceptable that hospitals and those being cared for within them are threatened by the basic lack of resources, damaged or indeed threatened with destruction, or those within them forced to be evacuated." 

Statement by President Higgins on ongoing violence in the Middle East https://t.co/FaQgXaJJpY

— President of Ireland (@PresidentIRL) November 2, 2023

According to the UN on Friday, 1,400 people have been killed so far in Israel, and over 9,000 have been killed in Gaza where, according to Hamas-run authorities, 70 percent of the victims are women and children.

Higgins called for all of the facts and figures around the Israel-Hamas conflict to be independently verified so that "lives lost are not reduced to competing press releases."

Higgins said no issues should stand in the way of the protection of children's lives. 

"When it comes to the protection of children, no other issues should stand in the way for even a minute. Friendships, alliances, and partnerships are tested by what cannot be avoided if diplomacy is to return and replace war," Higgins said in the statement. 

He also called for all "blocks to humanitarian relief" to be removed and called for a solution that "can deliver a reasonable security to citizens of Israel, and at the same time achieve the delivery of the long-neglected rights of the Palestinian people". 

Higgins praised Irish NGOs for their response in Gaza, stating that they have performed with "great acts of courage and humanity."

The President's statement on Thursday was his second official one in less than a month. On October 9, he called for the "ceasing of the violence and the protection of the lives of innocent civilians" in Israel and Gaza.

His comments came the day after Tánaiste Micheál Martin also issued a statement urging an immediate humanitarian ceasefire

Meanwhile, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, who is in South Korea this week for a trade mission, said that Israel's activity in Gaza is no longer self-defense but seems to represent "something more approaching revenge."

Speaking to reporters on Friday morning, after Israeli ground troops encircled Gaza, Varadkar reaffirmed that Israel has the right to defend itself and "go after" Hamas.

He added that it is important that people "never forget where this started," adding that Israel's attacks on Gaza only took place after Hamas killed more than 1,400 Israelis on October 7. 

"But what I am seeing unfolding at the moment isn't just self-defense, 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," Varadkar told reporters. 

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has said that what is happening in Gaza is not just self-defence on the part of Israel, but it "resembles something more approaching revenge" | Read more: https://t.co/dUW4QccnUT pic.twitter.com/Zg2rmq4Kju

— RTÉ News (@rtenews) November 3, 2023

The AFP reports that 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.”

He added: “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."

According to RTÉ, Varadkar said Ireland "will continue to increase our humanitarian aid for Palestine."