Some Irish citizens ‘may be able to leave Gaza’ on Wednesday

Some Irish citizens may be able to leave Gaza on Wednesday amid a “complex situation”, it has been indicated.

It comes as Ireland’s deputy premier Micheal Martin travels to Egypt where the Rafah crossing is located.

Up to 40 Irish citizens are understood to be in the territory amid Israeli attacks following a Hamas incursion into Israel in October, which resulted in killings and kidnappings.

The Irish Department of Foreign Affairs said it “understands that some Irish citizens may be listed for a departure from Gaza tomorrow”.

It added: “We continue to remain in contact with our citizens in Gaza as this complex situation evolves.”

Irish president Michael D Higgins met on Tuesday with the families of a number of hostages currently being held in Gaza.

Those in attendance at the meeting included Thomas and Natali Hand, father and sister of eight-year-old Irish-Israeli child Emily Hand; and Maya Lambroso, Tal Yeshurun and Eylon Keshet, representing a number of families of those being held as hostages, as well as the Ambassador of Israel to Ireland Dana Erlich.

Mr Higgins said the welfare of all children and civilians in Israel and Gaza “should be in the forefront of all of minds at this time”.

“What the families are going through in terms of anxiety and apprehension must be near unbearable, including in Emily Hand’s case that her father and sister know that she will be celebrating her ninth birthday while being held hostage,” he said.

“In our meeting, we discussed what actions can be taken to help ensure the safe return of the hostages to their families.

“To this end, I once again call for the unconditional release of all hostages currently being held in Gaza. I further echo the call which the families have made that the Red Cross/Red Crescent, or another appropriate organisation, must be given such access to the hostages as will enable their present position to be affirmed. I have assured the families that I will relay the importance of this request to the Irish Government.”

Earlier Tanaiste Micheal Martin pledged the government will leave “no stone unturned” in their efforts to return an Irish-Israeli girl to her family.

Mr Martin met Emily’s father Tom in Dublin on Tuesday afternoon.

“Everyone in Ireland feels the deepest sympathy for Thomas and all the Hand family, given the horrific and traumatic ordeal they are currently experiencing,” he said.

Thomas and Natali Hand
Thomas and Natali Hand during a press conference for families of hostages feared taken in Gaza (Norma Burke/PA)

“Emily will turn nine on Friday… This brilliant and talented young girl needs to be returned to her family immediately.

“My department will leave no stone unturned in pursuing that outcome.”

He added: “We have been engaging intensively internationally through political, official and security channels in a bid to secure Emily’s safe return.

“Later this week, I will be raising Emily’s case in all appropriate meetings during my visit to Israel, Egypt and the occupied Palestinian territory.

“All our thoughts are with Emily and her family at this profoundly difficult time. All hostages in Gaza should be released immediately and unconditionally.”

Thomas Hand
Thomas Hand during a press conference at Israel’s embassy in Dublin (Norma Burke/PA)

Speaking on RTE Radio, Irish premier Leo Varadkar said it was important not to forget Emily’s case.

The Taoiseach said he met Ms Erlich about Irish citizens who wished to leave Gaza and was told that it is not the case that Israel is refusing to let Irish citizens leave.

“I’m very conscious that we have citizens in Gaza, I’m very conscious that there’s a young Irish girl, nine years old this week, Emily Hand, who is being held by Hamas as a hostage in Gaza, let’s not forget her,” he told RTE Radio.

“Very conscious that we have 400 Irish troops on the Israeli border in Golan, in southern Lebanon. Their safety is paramount to me and in everything we do and say, we’re bearing all of those things very much in mind.”

He said that the situation in Gaza is “deteriorating rapidly”, and a ceasefire should be put in place and adhered to by all sides.

He said that Hamas cannot be blamed for violence in the West Bank, which he said was “significant” that it had been raised as an issue by British PM Rishi Sunak, an ally of Israel.

He said Ireland would not change its position in calling for a humanitarian ceasefire in the Israel-Hamas conflict.