Irish ambassador meets Israeli official over Varadkar comments

Sonya McGuinness
Image caption,Sonya McGuinness met with a senior Israeli official on Monday

The Irish ambassador has said she is surprised at Israel’s criticism of the Irish government during a meeting at the Israeli foreign ministry.

Sonya McGuinness met senior Israeli official Daniel Meron on Monday afternoon.

It follows a statement by Taoiseach (Irish PM) Leo Varadkar on Saturday after the release of nine-year-old Emily Hand, who was being held hostage by Hamas.

Emily was one of 17 people handed over late on Saturday.

The taoiseach described the Irish-Israeli girl’s release as an “enormous joy and relief”, adding that “an innocent child who was lost has now been found and returned”.

The Israeli government described Mr Varadkar’s comments as “outrageous” and said Ms McGuinness would be summoned for a “reprimand”.

At the meeting on Monday, the ambassador presented the Israeli foreign ministry with the full statements issued by the taoiseach and tánaiste (Irish Deputy PM) on Saturday following Emily’s release.

The Irish government said the statements thanked those who had “facilitated her freeing from captivity” and called for the “immediate and unconditional release of all hostages held by Hamas in Gaza” .

“In this context, Ambassador McGuinness expressed surprise on the part of the Irish government that these expressions of evident relief at Emily’s release had been publicly criticised by the Israeli government,” the statement continued.

Leo Varadkar
Image caption,”The vast majority of people will understand what I meant” – Leo Varadkar

On Sunday, Israeli Foreign Minister Eli Cohen said the taoiseach needed “a reality check”.

“Emily Hand was not ‘lost’,” he wrote on X, formerly Twitter.

“She was kidnapped by a terror organisation worse than ISIS that murdered her stepmother.”

But speaking to Irish broadcaster RTÉ Mr Varadkar said “the vast majority of people will understand” what he meant.

A third group of hostages held in Gaza have now been released as part of a deal between Israel and Hamas.

Israel’s military began attacking Gaza after Hamas fighters crossed the border on 7 October, killing 1,200 Israelis and taking more than 200 hostages.

The Hamas-run health ministry says more than 14,500 people have been killed in Gaza – more than a third of them children – since Israel began its retaliatory action.

Under the terms of the Israel-Hamas temporary truce, a total of 50 hostages will be released during a four-day pause in fighting which began on 24 November at 07:00 (05:00 GMT).

Hamas said 150 Palestinian women and teenagers will be released from Israeli jails under the deal and hundreds of lorries of humanitarian aid, medical supplies and fuel will be allowed into Gaza.

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