Opinion

Hopes that Irish-Israeli 9-year-old Emily Hand will be freed as Hamas and Israel enter into truce

The Irish News view: 'Humanitarian pause' on grotesque violence needs to become permanent

Irish-Israeli Emily Hand (9) is believed to be among the hostages taken by Hamas on October 7. PICTURE: YAEL SHAHRUR NOAH VIA AP
Irish-Israeli Emily Hand (9) is believed to be among the hostages taken by Hamas on October 7. PICTURE: YAEL SHAHRUR NOAH VIA AP Irish-Israeli Emily Hand (9) is believed to be among the hostages taken by Hamas on October 7. PICTURE: YAEL SHAHRUR NOAH VIA AP

Though there is huge relief that a truce has been brokered between Israel and Hamas, it is profoundly regrettable that both sides have not decided to end the bleak horror of their war entirely.

Instead, in a deal mediated by Qatar, Egypt and the United States, hostilities are to cease for four days. Hamas is to release, in stages, 50 of the 240 hostages it captured during the barbaric attack of October 7, with Israel freeing 120 Palestinian prisoners from its jails.

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Both sides have said they will release women and children first. Israel says it will extend the truce, described as a 'humanitarian pause', by an extra day for every 10 additional hostages Hamas releases. Humanitarian aid into Gaza is to also be ramped up.

Palestinian children wounded in the Israeli bombardment of the Gaza Strip are treated at al Aqsa Hospital on Deir al Balah in Gaza this week. PICTURE: AP PHOTO/MARWAN SALEH
Palestinian children wounded in the Israeli bombardment of the Gaza Strip are treated at al Aqsa Hospital on Deir al Balah in Gaza this week. PICTURE: AP PHOTO/MARWAN SALEH Palestinian children wounded in the Israeli bombardment of the Gaza Strip are treated at al Aqsa Hospital on Deir al Balah in Gaza this week. PICTURE: AP PHOTO/MARWAN SALEH

These are significant and positive developments. Nonetheless, against the bloody backdrop of a conflict which, in less than seven weeks, has already left thousands dead, more lives shattered and seen vast tracts of Gaza razed to the ground, they are merely thin shafts of light.

In Ireland, there is intense hope that Emily Hand, the nine-year-old Irish-Israeli girl who is believed to be held by Hamas, will be among the hostages released in the coming days.

The Department of Foreign Affairs has stressed that there has been no official confirmation that Emily – who had initially been feared murdered by Hamas in its raid on southern Israel – will be among the first to be freed.

Palestinians pray over their relatives, killed in the Israeli bombardment, in town of Khan Younis, southern Gaza, on Wednesday. PICTURE: AP PHOTO/MOHAMMED DAHMAN
Palestinians pray over their relatives, killed in the Israeli bombardment, in town of Khan Younis, southern Gaza, on Wednesday. PICTURE: AP PHOTO/MOHAMMED DAHMAN Palestinians pray over their relatives, killed in the Israeli bombardment, in town of Khan Younis, southern Gaza, on Wednesday. PICTURE: AP PHOTO/MOHAMMED DAHMAN

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar is correct when he says the ceasefire should be extended to allow space for a peace initiative "which can bring a permanent end to violence in the region, resulting in a two state solution – Israel and Palestine as secure and viable states living side by side".

It is hugely regrettable that there appears to be little prospect of that happening. Hamas has not rowed back from its aim to destroy the state of Israel. In turn, Israel's prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, says it intends to resume the war and continue fighting "until we achieve all our goals", which include the destruction of Hamas and the return of all hostages.

The fact that a pause in hostilities has been agreed at all does at least suggest the temporary could, with courage and encouragement, become permanent. A region – and a world – wearied by the conflict's grotesque violence will be praying that becomes a reality.