Ireland's PM Leo Varadkar under fire for comments on release of Irish-Israeli girl held captive by Hamas

26 November 2023, 16:48 | Updated: 26 November 2023, 16:50

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar. Picture: Getty/Alamy
Kieran Kelly

By Kieran Kelly

Ireland's Taoiseach Leo Varadkar is under fire for his response to the release of an Irish-Israeli hostage, Emily Hand, by Hamas.

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Emily, who spent who ninth birthday being held in captivity by Hamas, was freed by the terrorist group on Saturday evening.

Reacting to her release, Varadkar wrote on Twitter: "This is a day of enormous joy and relief for Emily Hand and her family. An innocent child who was lost has now been found and returned, and we breathe a massive sigh of relief.  

"Our prayers have been answered."

The Taoiseach has been criticised for describing Emily as "lost" and "found", given that she was kidnapped by Hamas and held in captivity for more than six weeks.

After his comments, the Irish Ambassador to Israel was summoned to the foreign ministry in Jerusalem for a "reprimand" following a strong response to his comments.

Emily Hand is reunited with her father after seven weeks in captivity
Emily Hand is reunited with her father after seven weeks in captivity. Picture: Alamy

Meanwhile, Eli Cohen, Israel’s foreign minister, said on social media: "Mr Prime Minister. It seems you have lost your moral compass and need a reality check!”

“Emily Hand was not “’lost’, she was kidnapped by a terror organisation (sic) worse than ISIS that murdered her stepmother."

Read More: 'Emily has come back to us': Heart-warming moment Irish-Israeli girl, 9, reunites with father after Hamas release

Read More: Irish-Israeli girl Emily Hand, 9, whose father feared her dead, among hostages released from Hamas captivity

“Shame on you,” he added.

The Taoiseach has since released his full statement regarding Emily's release - which was not published on Twitter at the time - which acknowledges that Emily was "snatched from her home".

It goes on: "A little girl was snatched from her home and held captive for seven weeks. She spent her ninth birthday as a hostage.

"We hope she will soon heal and recover from the traumatic experience in the loving embrace of her family."

It went on: "Emily now returns to her family, but we cannot forget that many more hostages remain in captivity in Gaza.

"Their fate is unknown, but we hope that like Emily, they will also be allowed to return to their homes and families."

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