Ireland's Department of Foreign Affairs and Micheál Martin seem hopeful that Irish citizens (up to 40) remaining in Gaza will cross the Rafah border, into Egypt, in the coming days.
Early on Wednesday morning, the first group of Irish citizens and dependants began their journey through the Rafah crossing from Gaza into Egypt. It is believed that there are up to 40 remaining Irish citizens in Gaza, 20 to 30 of whom are on the list to leave in the coming days.
The Israeli military campaign against the area started just over one month ago on October 7. The death toll in Gaza now exceeds 11,000, according to the Palestinian Health Ministry in the Hamas-controlled territory.
As Irish citizens begin their journey out of Gaza, Ireland's Department of Foreign Affairs announced that arrangements are in place for staff from the Irish Embassy in Cairo to meet them and to provide them with consular assistance and support, including with onward travel to Ireland.
“We expect additional Irish citizens and dependants in Gaza to be on the list in the coming days,” a spokesperson said.
“We are working tirelessly to ensure that all those who wish to do so will be able to exit as soon as possible.”
The DFA confirms some Irish citizens trapped in Gaza are cleared to evacuate via the Rafah crossing today.
Ibrahim Alagha and his family, who lived in Dublin 15 before this, are among those on the list. Govt hopes more Irish citizens will be added to the list in the days to come pic.twitter.com/IxGibgFUwC— Hannah Murphy (@Hanelizaa) November 15, 2023
Ireland's Tánaiste (Deputy Leader) and Minister of Foreign Affairs Micheál Martin spoke from Cairo early on Wednesday morning saying that the situation at the Rafah crossing seemed "very fluid" and he was hopeful that "quite a number" of the Irish citizens placed on the list to enter on Wednesday would successfully do so.
Speaking to reporters at 2 am on Wednesday in Cairo, Martin said: "I’m very pleased that a number of our Irish citizens are on the list today – Wednesday – to come through the crossing at Rafah. This is very welcome news,” the Irish Times reports.
He added “I can’t give you precise numbers but it is good news that quite a number of Irish citizens are on that list and there will be obviously further crossing, further groups of Irish citizens that we’re also working on.
“Obviously that will be part of engagements this week as well to make sure that we can get Irish citizens out as quickly as we possibly can.”
Martin will meet with Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry and Arab League representatives in Cairo. He will travel on to Tel Aviv on Thursday to meet with Israeli representatives. He will then meet with representatives of the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah in the West Bank later that day.
He also said he would press Hamas to release the Israeli-Irish girl, Emily Hand, who is presumed to have been taken hostage during the October 7th attacks. The young girl turns nine on Friday.
Martin said: “I met with the family before leaving so I’m very focused on that particular issue.
"As an Irish eight-year-old citizen, I think it’s imperative that she is released and indeed all hostages and particularly the children who have been abducted.”
The Tainaiste said he will ultimately press for a ceasefire and hopes to work with the regional leaders on a "pathway forward."
He said: "Ultimately there will have be a political process on this issue to create a sustainable pathway for peace so that people can live in harmony in the region."
Among those Irish citizens fleeing the war-torn area are the Irish family Ibrahim Alagha, Hamida Alagha, and their three young children Sami, Eileen, and Omar. The family told RTE Morning Ireland that at 10:20 am local time, they began to move through.
The Alagha family were on an extended vacation when the Israel bombing began one month ago. Since then, they have been stranded waiting for the Rafah crossing to open.
Ibrahim Alagha, 38, moved to Ireland 15 years ago where he works as an electronic engineer and lives in Blanchardstown, Dublin with his wife and children, aged eight, four, and three. In Gaza, the family ended up taking shelter in his father's farmhouse and medical clinic.
He recently explained how desperate the situation was saying his children were “always asking for food or water that we don’t have."
Another Irish national Ayman Shaheen, his wife Suha, daughter Rawan, 19, and son Ibrahim, 12, are also hopeful of getting through the Rafah.
The family has been waiting near the crossing since October and has been told by the DFA they are on the list to leave on Wednesday.
Mr Shaheen said “We are so lucky. We kept checking, twice a day. We are lucky to be alive. It is a great feeling that we are leaving."
He went on to voice his regret that 2.3 million in Gaza “will continue under the nightmare. The terrible war. But for me and for my family, as I said, we are so lucky to be able to go to cross the border.”
Shaheen continued, “It’s an excellent feeling. Finally, we’ll do it. We will cross the border. You feel like God has chosen you to survive. It’s a great feeling we are leaving.
“Everything in Gaza is upside down. It is a hell to be honest. It is hard to find food, hard to find water. It’s hard for everyone. I am lucky. I am so happy that I am going to leave.”