Protesters are calling for the expulsion of the Israeli ambassador to Dublin

More than a thousand people protested outside the Irish parliament demanding the expulsion of the Israeli ambassador in Dublin from the country.

It came as a government minister warned that such a move would push Ireland to the fringes of international opinion.

Protesters waved large Palestinian flags as they also called for a ceasefire in the conflict.

Demonstrators chanted “Free Palestine”, “Ambassador of Israel, out, out, out” and “from the river to the sea, Palestine will be free”.

Protesters also erected a large sign reading “Gaza” in lights.

People Before Profit TD Richard Boyd Barrett was among the protesters.

Also in attendance were Sinn Fein TDs Pearse Doherty and Matt Carthy, as well as Social Democrat leader Holly Cairns and party TD Gary Gannon.

The protest came ahead of a vote on a motion put forward by the Social Democrats calling for a series of economic and diplomatic sanctions against Israel.

The party called for the diplomatic credentials of Israel's ambassador to Ireland, Dana Ehrlich, to be revoked.

The resolution also called on Ireland to use its influence in Brussels to seek the suspension of the EU-Israel trade deal, citing a human rights clause in the agreement, and to suspend Israel from participating in the Horizon Europe research funding initiative.

The party said Ireland should also refer Israel to the International Criminal Court.

Tabling a counter motion dropping calls for sanctions, Foreign Secretary James Brown told the Dáil parliament that maintaining diplomatic ties with Israel was vital.

“There is a humanitarian disaster unfolding in Gaza and there is a real risk of regional spillover of the conflict,” he said.

“At the same time, I regret that the proposal put forward by the Social Democrats seeks to push Ireland to the fringes of international opinion,” he said, arguing that such a move would undermine the country's influence in the Middle East.

“It underestimates the value of international and multilateral engagement,” he added.

“Ireland must continue to work with our international partners to address this crisis.

“The Government has made its position clear on the proposals to expel the Israeli ambassador – cutting off diplomatic relations with a country means cutting off channels of communication.

“Diplomacy is not always or only about friendly relations, nor is it about supporting the policies or actions of a given country. It is precisely in times of conflict and tension that diplomacy is most useful and most necessary, and it is vital to maintain communication relationships.'

Social Democrat leader Holly Cairns insisted “words of condemnation are not enough” as she opened debate on the proposal.

Accusing Israel of committing war crimes in Gaza, Ms Cairns criticized the government for proposing amendments which she argued would replace the call for tangible sanctions against Israel with “stupidity and zero action”.

“The refusal of most Western leaders to call stop and demand a ceasefire has led to thousands of deaths,” Ms Cairns told the Dail.

“Israel kills with impunity. According to the World Health Organization, Gaza is now a graveyard for children.”

He added: “I recognize that the Irish government has done more than most of the EU to support a ceasefire, but that is just proof of how low the bar is.

“Words of condemnation are not enough. We need action.

“There must be consequences for the crimes committed by Israel against a captive civilian population in Gaza.”

Later, responding to Mr Browne's warning that Ireland was being pushed to the fringes, he said: “Given the opinion of the majority of Western leaders, I'm glad Ireland is an outlier.”

Sinn Fein's Matt Carthy said he was “ashamed” of the international community's response to the Israeli bombardment of Gaza.

“I am ashamed of the international community's response to what we saw in Gaza, and I am particularly ashamed of the EU's response,” he said.

“I think EU leaders have ensured that the European Union no longer has any credibility to be a voice for peace, international law and the basic rules of humanity as long as they refuse to take a stand.”

Mr Carthy told Brown that the world was “turning a blind eye” and “the EU, even worse, is providing cover”.

He criticized the government's failure to support the call for economic and diplomatic sanctions against Israel.

“Any possible action that could help pressure Israel to stop the slaughter of innocent Palestinians is met with deplorable excuses,” he said.

“It is not good enough, Minister. It is time for Ireland to show leadership and not follow the example of a European Union that is clearly unwilling or unable to provide the leadership needed in this case.”

Secretary of State Sean Fleming also addressed the Dáil during the two-hour debate.

“It is clear that MPs across the House are deeply and genuinely concerned about the appalling situation that has unfolded in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories over the past three weeks. The government shares this deep concern about the situation and its continued rapid deterioration, including the grave humanitarian situation now existing in the Gaza Strip,” he said.

He added: “The Irish Government's position on this is clear. Israel has the right to defend itself and its people from attack. But this is not an unlimited right.

“International humanitarian law applies, the principle of proportionality applies and the Israeli army has a duty to ensure the protection of civilians. A humanitarian ceasefire for Gaza is an essential, essential step now.”

MPs will vote on the government's proposal and amendment later on Wednesday.

They will also vote on a Sinn Féin motion, debated on Tuesday night, calling on the government to refer Israel to the International Criminal Court.