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Simon Coveney: 'Gaza is slightly smaller than County Louth but nearly 2 million people live in it'

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THE LAST TIME I was in Gaza was 2004. I was a Fine Gael TD and made a low-key entry into the strip with colleagues Liz O’Donnell and Senator David Norris through the Erez crossing from Israel.

We spent two nights there and my lasting impressions were of a place challenged by significant overcrowding and tragic living conditions, a population locked in by security fences that prevented movement in and out, full of young people intensely frustrated at not being allowed to help themselves.

This week I entered Gaza as Ireland’s Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs in an armoured Jeep under UN escort.

The first difference hit me right at the border. Erez is no longer a secure checkpoint but a fortified border terminal. Since I was last in Gaza there have been three wars and in the most recent in 2014, 495 children died.

Erez crossing (File photo from 2015)

The strip is slightly smaller than County Louth but has nearly 2 million people living in it. It is one of the most densely populated places on earth and is barricaded by a large security wall.

On its sunny shoreline you can stare at the horizon across the blue Mediterranean, but Gaza’s 1,300 fishing boats are only allowed venture five nautical miles before they are turned back by warning shots.

‘Gaza is being crippled by blockades’

The strip has........

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