Another 25 Irish citizens and dependants are expected to be able to leave Gaza, Ireland’s deputy premier has said.
Tanaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs Micheal Martin said they should be able to cross the Rafah border crossing into Egypt, bringing the total number of citizens and dependants leaving to 51.
He previously said he hoped that all Irish citizens who are in a position to travel would be out of Gaza by Sunday
The development comes as the family of an Israeli-Irish girl believed to have been taken hostage by Hamas said they are remaining positive that they will see her again.
A birthday party was held at St Stephen’s Green in Dublin for Emily Hand, who turned nine on Friday.
A birthday cake and balloons with Emily’s name were unveiled, as well as a poster saying “Bring her home now”.
Mr Martin said he remains deeply concerned about the situation of hostages in Gaza and called for their immediate and unconditional release.
He said: “Today Emily Hand will turn nine. This loving and talented young girl needs to be returned to her family immediately. My department will leave no stone unturned in pursuing that outcome.”
Mr Martin visited two towns in southern Israel on Thursday which had been attacked by Hamas in October, including Kibbutz Be’eri where Emily was believed to have been taken hostage.
He also met Palestinian Authority prime minister Mohammad Shtayyeh in Ramallah.
The Tanaiste described those who have left Gaza in recent days as “deeply traumatised by their experience”.
“As they return to Ireland in the coming days, they will need all of our support as they begin to restart their lives,” he said.
He also described the high number of civilian casualties in Gaza in recent weeks as shocking, and repeated his call for an immediate humanitarian ceasefire and an urgent scaling up of rapid and unimpeded humanitarian access.
“Ireland has been clear that international humanitarian law applies in all conflicts, in all circumstances, to state and non-state actors alike,” he said.
“We cannot see this violence, destruction and displacement continue.”
Emily was initially thought to be dead in the aftermath of the attack on Israeli citizens on October 7, but more recent information indicates that she is now held hostage Gaza.
Emily’s father, Tom Hand, has met Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and the Hand family have appealed for the Government’s help in securing her release.
Anna Byrne, a cousin of Emily’s father, attended the birthday party in Dublin on Friday.
She said it had been a horrific time for the family, but they are staying strong and positive.
“We are so thankful to the organisers of today, the whole family is so thankful for keeping Emily in everybody’s hearts and minds,” she said.
“Especially today. It is quite sad today because we were hoping to have her home for her birthday. We don’t know what type of birthday she is having.
“I just thought I would come today to represent the family and to be here for Emily and to wish her a happy birthday.”
She added: “We are trying to keep strong and positive. We worry about Tom, he is doing so much and it is hard for him to keep going.
“It is a horrific time so we just try to give as much support as we can and send our love and best wishes, but it is hard.
“You feel useless, not being able to do anything, and they are so far away. None of us can go to Israel so it is very hard but we are keeping positive and just praying and hoping.
“The family are so positive, that is the thing that is keeping us all going, the positivity that we are going to see Emily.”