PRESIDENT Michael D Higgins today met with the family of eight-year-old Emily Hand who is among the hostages being held by Hamas forces in Gaza.
President Higgins welcomed the families of a number of hostages believed to be held by the militant Palestinian group to a meeting at Áras an Uachtaráin in Dublin this afternoon.
Thomas Hand, Emily’s father, and Natali Hand, her half-sister, were among those in attendance.
Maya Lambroso, Tal Yeshurun and Eylon Keshet were also in attendance, representing their family members who are being held in Gaza since Hamas’ attack on Israel on October 7.
Ambassador of Israel to Ireland, H.E. Ms Dana Erlich was also at the meeting, where President Higgins discussed “what actions can be taken to help ensure the safe return of the hostages to their families”.
“I was pleased to have the opportunity to meet with Thomas, Natali, Maya, Tal and Eylon today and to hear first-hand of the terrible impact which the events of October 7 have had on the families of those being held hostage,” the President said.
“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 added: “The welfare of all children and civilians in Israel and Gaza should be in the forefront of all of our minds at this time.”
Mr Higgins went on to call for the “unconditional release” of all hostages by Hamas.
“I once again call for the unconditional release of all hostages currently being held in Gaza,” he said.
“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.”
Yesterday Taoiseach Leo Varadkar met with the hostages families in Dublin.
Later this week Tánaiste Mícheál Martin will travel to Egypt, Israel and the West Bank where he will discuss the position of the hostages and of the Irish citizens in Gaza.