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Israel criticises Leo Varadkar for comments on release of nine-year-old Hamas hostage

Emily Hand, 9, is reunited with her father  in Israel on Sunday
Emily Hand, 9, is reunited with her father in Israel on Sunday - The Israeli Army/AP

Irish prime minister Leo Varadkar has been criticised by Israel for saying a nine-year-old girl kidnapped by Hamas was “lost and has now been found”.

Responding to the release of Emily Hand, an Irish-Israeli schoolgirl, the Taoiseach said: “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.”

Israel’s foreign minister hit out at the statement, telling Mr Varadkar that it was inappropriate to suggest Emily was simply “lost” when she had in fact been kidnapped by Hamas terrorists.

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

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

The Taoiseach has beeen crticised by Isreal for his choice of words
The Taoiseach has beeen crticised by Isreal for his choice of words - Martin Sylvest/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

The minister added that Hamas has taken more than 30 children hostage, and accused the Irish taoiseach of trying to legitimise and normalise terror.

“Shame on you,” he concluded.

Israel subsequently summoned Ireland’s ambassador to Tel Aviv for a “reprimand”.

Ireland has angered Israel on various occasions since the Oct 7 Hamas incursion on Israel.

Early in November, the Taoiseach said Israel had gone beyond its right to self-defence with its actions in Gaza and warned that collective punishment was a breach of international law.

Ireland has a long history of supporting Palestinian freedom and peace in the region. Videos of Irish politicians criticising the Israeli government have gone viral on social media in recent weeks.

Israel’s government spokesman Eylon Levy said: “Emily Hand wasn’t ‘lost’. She was brutally abducted by the death squads that massacred her neighbours. She wasn’t ‘found’. Hamas knew where she was all along and cynically held her as a hostage. And Hamas didn’t answer your prayers. It answered Israel’s military pressure.”

In response to the criticism, Mr Varadkar said he was referring to “the amazing joy” when a “child comes home” and that the most important thing was that Emily is at home with her family, adding “that’s all that really matters”.

He added he has always been consistent in his unequivocal condemnation of Hamas and the taking of hostages.

“I call for all hostages to be released without any conditions and always have done so. And the Irish government has worked very hard over the last few weeks, with Egypt, with Qatar, with the Red Cross and also with Israel,” he said