The Irish Times view on the release of Emily Hand: Irish diplomacy pays off

There are still hopes that the hostage dialogue may open a pathway to further talks on a peaceful way forward

The heartwarming images of 9-year-old Emily Hand running to embrace her Irish father Thomas Hand come as a considerable relief. After 50 days as a hostage in Gaza, much of the time clouded in uncertainty about whether she was alive or dead, her family can rejoice at her inclusion in the second group of 13 women and children released by Hamas on Saturday. Her friend Hila Rotem (13), was also released, but her mother, Raya Rotem is still being held captive. Thirty-nine Palestinian prisoners were released by Israel as part of the deal, while significant amounts of desperately needed food, fuel and medicines were trucked into Gaza.

Hamas militants yesterday freed 17 more hostages, including 14 Israelis in another exchange for Palestinian prisoners. Nonetheless, the agreement remains precarious and there is no sign yet that Hamas will be willing to continue releases beyond the 50 agreed as part of the deal on a four-day ceasefire.

There are still hopes that the hostage dialogue may open a pathway to further talks on a peaceful way forward. Israel has promised to maintain the ceasefire for a day for every 10 further releases, but has repeated that it intends to resume its destructive campaign within days.

Emily spent her ninth birthday in captivity having been taken hostage at a sleepover with a friend. Her father, originally from Dún Laoghaire, had urged the Irish Government to do what it could to secure her release.


It is understood Irish diplomats liaised with Qatari, Egyptian and US officials who mediated talks between Hamas and Israel. This work and contacts by the Irish Government proved vital and showed the importance of keeping diplomatic channels open.

While Taoiseach Leo Varadkar might have chosen his words better, the diplomatic row following Emily Hand’s release is more a reflection of the tense state of relations between Ireland and Israel. The Government has been clear in condemning the Hamas attack, but its criticism of Israel’s response has clearly raised hackles.