Forty Irish people currently in Gaza, Taoiseach says after meeting in Paris with Macron

Israel’s call for civilians to flee Gaza is ‘deeply dangerous’, says Micheál Martin

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has said there are about 40 Irish people currently in Gaza, including aid workers with the United Nations, and Irish-Palestinians who are dual citizens.

The Government is working to contact them and provide advice about what to do ahead of the expected Israeli offensive into the territory.

Mr Varadkar said Ireland was working with its EU partners, and others, to organise the evacuation of Irish nationals from Gaza if necessary. Asked about the condition of those who remained in the enclave, the Taoiseach said the Irish citizens there were in different situations, as some were aid workers and others were living in Gaza with their families.

“Everyone’s circumstances are different,” he said. “But, as is always the case, we want to protect our citizens, to assist them to get into Egypt, and then out from there.”


Mr Varadkar was speaking at the Irish Embassy on Sunday evening, following a bilateral meeting with French president Emmanuel Macron at the Élysée Palace. The two leaders were originally scheduled to meet on Friday evening, but the talks were postponed after a teacher was stabbed to death in a terror attack at a school in northern France.

The Taoiseach said they had a “very good meeting” that lasted for about an hour, during which they emphasised the need for a humanitarian corridor to be established for civilians fleeing Gaza.

“We have a shared view on the situation and how it might develop. We’re both very concerned about escalation and the possibility of the conflict spreading to the West Bank and Lebanon. That’s a particular concern for us because we have troops in both Lebanon and Syria. It’s fair to say that we have a common view that Israel has the right to defend itself, and the right to go after terrorists, but that must be done in accordance with international humanitarian law.

“Escalation really needs to be avoided. That was reflected in today’s statement from the European Council, and that’s probably what the outcome will be when we meet next Tuesday as 27 heads of government.”

The Taoiseach said that all efforts needed to be made to avoid civilian casualties in Gaza. “We do not condone the targeting of civilian infrastructure. Electricity, fuel, food supplies, water – those things should not be cut off in our view.”

Asked about any differences of opinion between Europe and the United States about the Israeli response to last weekend’s Hamas attack, Mr Varadkar said that he did not believe there was a huge divergence.

“What we are seeing from the US and the EU is initially very strong support for Israel in the wake of the terrorist attacks that occurred on their soil, the worst since the foundation of the Israeli state. But I think what we will see over the coming days and weeks will be stronger messages from Europe and the US, and indeed from Ireland, to the Israeli government saying very clearly that we do not want to see the situation escalate.”

The Taoiseach said he and Mr Macron were also very keen to see more EU funding provided to Kyiv, and to ensure that the events in the Middle East would not cause Ukraine to “drop down the agenda”.

“That war is an existential threat to Europe in many ways, so we want to make sure that there is no loss of focus on that.”

Meanwhile, Tánaiste Micheál Martin has said that the Israeli military’s call for civilians in Gaza to flee south ahead of an expected ground offensive is “deeply dangerous and impossible to implement”,

On Sunday morning, Mr Martin said he was “deeply concerned at the situation in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territory”.

Mr Martin added: “The decision by the Israeli military to tell the entire civilian population in the north of the Gaza Strip to move southward for their own safety is deeply dangerous and impossible to implement.

“The UN has been very clear: it is not possible for such a move to take place without serious humanitarian consequences and the likelihood of a catastrophic situation.”

He also said: “There is no doubt about the brutal criminality of Hamas and their utter disregard for human life, including the lives of their fellow Palestinians.

“But we absolutely must distinguish between Hamas and Palestinian civilians in Gaza.

“We are in contact with the UN and other partners on an ongoing basis on work to create humanitarian corridors from Egypt, to get vital supplies to civilians in urgent need in Gaza.”

Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn is a Political Correspondent at The Irish Times