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Governments ‘not given proof of life of Hamas’s hostages’ – Micheal Martin

Micheal Martin said the Irish government continues to work with Israeli and Egyptian authorities to get the remaining Irish citizens out of Gaza.

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Irish deputy premier Michael Martin speaks to the media outside Dublin Castle

Ireland’s deputy premier Micheal Martin said humanitarian workers have not been able to provide governments with the proof of life of any hostages believed to be held by Hamas, including nine-year-old Irish-Israeli Emily Hand.

Mr Martin said the Irish government continues to work with Israeli and Egyptian authorities to get the remaining Irish citizens and their dependents out of Gaza.

Earlier, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar told the Dail that the Government was doing everything it could to secure Emily’s release.

Speaking to reporters in Dublin, Mr Martin said: “The International Committee of the Red Cross and Red Crescent have not had access to the hostages, I understand, in terms of verification and proof of life of any hostage – and that obviously remains a matter of deep anxiety for the families of all involved.”

He added: “Ordinarily, in theatres of conflict or wars they would get access to prisoners of war camps, for example.”

Mr Martin said there has been no further information with respect to any individual hostage, adding: “Not least Emily Hand.”

Asked about the release of bodies, he said there has been “no indication of that yet”.

But he said “the bones of an agreement” on the release of hostages by Hamas exists.

“We want all hostages released. We have raised the case of Emily Hand with all of the key governments and agencies which may have influence and channels with people who could affect the release of hostages and particularly Emily Hand,” Mr Martin said.

“We have prioritised the release of children and older people and that is our focus. I hope and I pray that Emily Hand will be freed along with other hostages.

He added: “We know that the bones of an agreement is there. I think what we’re all waiting for now is the realisation of it and the release of hostages.”

Mr Varadkar spoke on the issue during Leaders’ Questions in the Dail.

“We understand that there are some discussions and talks under way between intermediaries involving the release of hostages,” he said.

“I had a chance to speak with the Prime Minister and Foreign Minister of Qatar only yesterday. I’ll meet today (Tuesday) with the ambassadors of some Arab countries and some Muslim countries and, as you know, the Tanaiste has been very involved in contacts as well.

“And we are particularly pursuing the case of Emily Hand, a young Irish-Israeli girl who we believe is being held hostage in Gaza by Hamas, and we’re doing everything we can to make sure that if there is the release of some hostages by Hamas in the coming days, that children are first among those to be released.

“We’re very strongly of the view that hostages should never be taken by anyone in any conflict anywhere, ever. But, particularly the taking of children as hostages is particularly wrong. We’re pushing and using all our contacts and all our abilities to ensure that if there is a hostage release in the coming days, that Emily Hand is among one of those to be released. That’s a major priority for us now, as a government.

“We should not forget, only one Irish citizen has been killed so far in this conflict, Kim Damti, who was killed by Hamas in Israel, attending a music festival, and there is an Irish citizen being held hostage by Hamas in Gaza, and we’re doing everything we can to facilitate her release.”

Also on Tuesday, Mr Martin described the recent vandalism of his Department of Foreign Affairs building as a “criminal act”.

He said diplomats had done “extraordinary work” to get 51 Irish citizens and their dependents so far out of Gaza through the Rafah crossing.

“Why you would attack the Department of Foreign Affairs is simply beyond me,” he said.

Mr Martin said “the majority” of Irish citizens have left Gaza but some are not “in a position” to leave due to personal circumstances.

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