A year ago today, the world saw for itself an act of barbarity and brutality in Gaza. The first day of the Israeli attack saw 339 Gazans killed, the single biggest loss of life in the history of the occupation since 1948. The timing of the attack on 27 December, at 11.30am and one of the busiest times of the day, showed a shocking disregard for the wellbeing of Gaza civilians.

Not that this was the first attack on Gaza's population. They were already subject to a medieval and illegal blockade, meaning that Gaza was not equipped with the necessary food, fuel or anything else to allow for normal day-to-day living. Neither were they equipped with the necessary medical equipment to treat the injured, which numbered in the thousands.

The minister for foreign affairs at the time, Dermot Ahern, referred to it as "an act of collective punishment" illegal under international law. The Israeli government sickeningly referred to its casual disregard for the Geneva conventions as putting Palestinians in Gaza "on a diet" without killing them.

Under the false premise of halting rocket attacks by Hamas – which had incidentally upheld its ceasefire until 4 November when Israel launched an attack into Gaza killing six members of the organisation – Israel used the opportunity to bring its act of collective punishment to a new and frightening level.

Over a period of about a month, Israel bombarded the 1.5 million people in the most densely populated open-air prison in the world to thousands of pounds of the most sophisticated ballistic missiles and weaponry on the planet.

The actual, and unspoken, crime of the people in Gaza for which they were, and are still, being punished by Israel, is the crime of exercising their right to democracy in electing Hamas.

What Christmas present are the people of Gaza to enjoy this year? People of conscience around the world are watching and waiting to see what the west's answer to that question will be, bearing in mind that one year on from the bloody events perpetrated on the people of Gaza, the powers that be in the rest of the world are still to act.

Ken Foley,

Trim, Co Meath