Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney is in Gaza, where Ireland has announced investment of €8.8 million in a new waste water treatment plant, which will be powered by solar energy.

The Tánaiste said it was a significant investment.

"We're going to spend almost €9 million building one of the largest solar projects across the Middle East. It's going to be eight hectares of solar panels powering a water purification and a sewerage treatment plant which is going to improve the quality of people's water in Gaza city significantly and it's badly needed," he said.

"But we're also here to raise the profile of the plight of Palestinians living in awful conditions in Gaza. People shouldn't have to live like this, and it's because of a lack of political progress that the continued pressures on people living in Gaza are as they are."

He added: "Ireland continues to advocate for a change in that political circumstance. The Irish position in relation to Israeli settlements and the expansion of those settlements is very clear. We regard this as illegal under international law. An occupying power has an obligation not to forcibly displace people and to expand settlements in the way that is currently happening in the West Bank, and I've spoken out against that in the Irish parliament, at a UN level and I'm also very blunt on that issue when I'm speaking to Israeli politicians as well."

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He said Ireland would continue to speak out in this way. "Not only is it illegal but it is also making a political settlement in the context of creating two states next door to each other that can function, more and more difficult, the more expansion that we see linked to those settlements."

Water pollution is one of the leading causes of child mortality in Gaza - 97% of the water supply there is unfit for human consumption, according to the World Health Organization.

Ireland is one of the major investors in a new 7.5 megawatt solar powered desalination and waste water treatment plant, which it is hoped will help provide a clean treated water supply to northern Gaza.

The investment in solar power means the plant will not rely on expensive diesel fuel in a built up area that frequently experiences power cuts.

Water from the plant will also be used to help irrigate close to 1,500 hectares of agricultural land. The solar panels will stand on land previously designated off-limits by Israeli authorities.

The total project will cost over €67 million and has other backers including the French Development Agency and the World Bank.