TDs reject call to expel Israel's ambassador

Dana Erlich
The Social Democrats had sought backing to revoke the diplomatic credentials of Israel's ambassador to Ireland, Dana Erlich

A motion which called for the expulsion of Israel's ambassador to Ireland has been rejected in the Irish parliament.

The Social Democrats had sought backing to revoke the diplomatic credentials of Dana Erlich over the conflict between Israel and Hamas.

TDs instead backed a government motion which called for a ceasefire.

Sinn Fein, the Labour Party and People before Profit all voted for expulsion as well as a number of independent TDs.

Dublin Gaza protest
More than 1,000 protesters gathered outside the Irish parliament

Social Democrat leader Holly Cairns, who tabled her party's motion, said "despite the overwhelming support of the Irish people, this government has chosen not to act".

A Sinn Féin motion was also defeated which urged the government to refer Israel to the International Criminal Court.

The recent escalation in hostilities followed the killing of more than a thousand people by Hamas in Israel on 7 October, with more than 200 people taken hostage

Israel has since taken military action in Gaza, with the Hamas-run health ministry stating more than 11,000 people have been killed.

On Wednesday, Tánaiste (Irish deputy prime minister) Micheál Martin said 23 Irish citizens had crossed into Egypt from Gaza.

Speaking in Cairo, he said it was "very welcome news" that some families with children had successfully crossed the Rafah checkpoint.

An Irish diplomatic team is stationed at the crossing and would bring arrivals to Cairo, where medical assistance has been arranged, Micheál Martin continued.

Speaking to Irish broadcaster RTÉ, Mr Martin said there is another group of about 40 Irish citizens and dependents due to exit the war zone.

"I am more relieved today now than I have been for a while because, of course, the situation in Gaza is very serious, very dangerous."

In the UK Parliament, MPs voted to reject a call for an immediate ceasefire on Wednesday evening.

Among Northern Ireland's MPs, the SDLP and Alliance voted in favour and four DUP MPs in the chamber voted against the move.

The DUP also voted against a separate Labour amendment which stopped short of calling for a ceasefire.

Also on Wednesday, the UN Security Council voted in favour of a draft resolution that calls for "urgent and extended humanitarian pauses and corridors" throughout the Gaza Strip.

Twelve members voted for the resolution with three abstentions from permanent members the US, UK and Russia.

Gaza map
Foreign passport holders are exiting Gaza via the Rafah crossing

On Monday, Taoiseach (Irish prime minister) Leo Varadkar reiterated his government's call for Hamas to release all hostages immediately.

He was speaking after meeting the family of an Irish-Israeli girl - Emily Hand - who is believed to be a hostage.

On Wednesday, Mr Martin said he has received a positive response from the Egyptian foreign minister regarding the eight-year-old.

Similarly, the Qatari foreign minister gave a positive response, he said.

Qatar is hoping to strike a deal between Israel and Hamas to release 50 hostages in exchange for a three-day ceasefire.

Mr Martin said he hoped Emily Hand would be let go if this was achieved.

'It is a hell'

A father-of-two whose family was among a number of Irish-Palestinians on a list to leave Gaza said it feels "like God chose you to survive".

Aymen Shaheen is hoping to leave the war zone on Thursday along with his wife, daughter and son.

He said the family were being assisted by the Irish Department of Foreign Affairs.

Mr Shaheen said Gaza had become "a hell" and he felt very fortunate to be able to leave.

"We are lucky that we will cross the border, but 2.3m Palestinians in Gaza will continue under this nightmare," he told RTÉ.

Mr Shaheen said he had been contacted by staff from the Irish government who confirmed that his family was included on the list of international citizens who would be allowed to cross from Gaza to Egypt.

"It is dangerous but we can move, we have to do it," he said.

Mr Shaheen said life in Gaza had been turned upside down since Israel began bombing the territory in early October.

"It is a hell to be honest – hard to find food, hard to find water, hard to find bread. It’s hard for everyone to be in such circumstances," Mr Shaheen said.

'Make sure they will be safe'

Another Irish-Palestinian father of two, who grew up in Belfast, has called for the Irish government to put his children on the evacuation list.

Khalid El-Estal lost his wife, mother, brother, uncle and two cousins following an explosion in Gaza last month.

His children - four-year-old Ali and one-year-old Sara - were buried in the rubble but survived the bombing.

"I am begging them to put my children's names on the next list and to make sure they will be safe when they reach the border crossing," he told RTÉ.

Mr El-Estal was born in Belfast and attended primary school in the Botanic area while his father worked as a lecturer at Queen's University.

He was eight years old when his family relocated to Gaza and he later met his wife, Ashwak Jendia, at university.

Mr El-Estal’s brother-in-law, who has an Irish visa, would accompany the children on the journey from Gaza to Ireland if they are allowed to leave.

More on Israel-Gaza war