Fierce fighting reported in Gaza City’s outskirts as foreign nationals and injured Palestinians leave in first evacuation

Irish diplomats ‘urgently’ seeking for citizens trapped in enclave to be included in future evacuations, Department says

Foreign nationals and injured Palestinians have begun leaving Gaza for the first time since Israel launched its offensive against the coastal enclave in the wake of the Hamas attack on October 7th.

The first group of almost 80 injured Gaza residents entered Egypt on Wednesday via ambulances through the Rafah crossing, along with more than 300 foreign passport holders. Workers of international aid organisations – including Médecins Sans Frontières, the International Committee of the Red Cross and UN agency for Palestinian refugees, UNRWA – were also allowed to cross into Egypt.

Irish diplomats are “urgently” seeking to have Irish people trapped in Gaza included in future evacuations across the border, a Department of Foreign Affairs spokesman said on Wednesday.

The spokesman confirmed the department was not aware that any Irish citizens were among the first group to be allowed over the Rafah crossing.


Diplomats based in embassies in Cairo and Tel Aviv were in “constant communication” with authorities in Egypt and Israel, raising the cases of Irish people stuck in Gaza, he said.

United Nations Middle East envoy Tor Wennesland welcomed the opening of the Rafah crossing as “an important step in the right direction, which we need to build on”.

UNRWA head Philippe Lazzarini speaking in Gaza on Wednesday, said he was shocked by the scale of the humanitarian crisis there after more than three weeks of Israeli bombardment. “I was shocked by the fact that everyone there was asking for food and water ... I never, ever have seen something similar in Gaza.”

Almost 9,000 people, including more than 3,600 children, have been killed in Gaza since Israel began its attacks on October 7th, according to health authorities in the Hamas-run enclave. Israel mounted its offensive after 1,400 people were killed and more than 200 hostages taken, most of them civilians, when some 3,000 Hamas fighters crossed the border and infiltrated into 22 Israeli border communities.

On day 26 of the war, fierce fighting was reported in the outlying neighbourhoods of Gaza City as the Israel Defence Forces continued what they described as a measured advance into the coastal strip, accompanied by massive fire power.

The assumption is that roads, dirt tracks, buildings and vehicles on the path of the Israeli forces have been mined in advance, and bulldozers are being used to clear the way while tanks destroy other obstacles.

Israeli forces aim to divide the Gaza Strip, separating the northern area of the enclave, including Gaza City, from the remainder.

Israel says it has lost 15 soldiers in the ground offensive to date, of whom 11 were killed were killed when an anti-tank rocket hit an armoured personnel carrier.

Tánaiste Micheál Martin meanwhile said he was “deeply shocked” by the number of casualties from the air strikes on the Jabalia camp.

Mr Martin called for an immediate humanitarian ceasefire, saying: “Ireland has made clear on many occasions that Israel’s right to defend itself must be within the parameters of international humanitarian law.”

Prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu said the war was difficult and would be long. The Israeli military now estimates that the full-scale war will likely last for a few months and this will probably be followed by many more months of fighting against a guerrilla-type insurgency.

Ismail Haniyeh, Hamas’s political chief, said he had informed mediators in the negotiations over release of hostages that a ceasefire was necessary for a prisoner exchange deal.

Mark Weiss

Mark Weiss

Mark Weiss is a contributor to The Irish Times based in Jerusalem

Jack Power

Jack Power

Jack Power is acting Europe Correspondent of The Irish Times