More than 20 Irish citizens exited Gaza through the Rafah crossing

More than 20 Irish citizens have left the Gaza Strip through the Rafah crossing into Egypt.

Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar said arrangements were in place for the country's embassy staff in Cairo to provide them with consular assistance, including travel back to Ireland.

He told a meeting of Fine Gael's parliamentary party on Wednesday night that diplomatic relations are being maintained with all countries and ambassadors to ensure the Irish get out of Gaza safely.

Mr Varadkar said he was pleased to see that this had resulted in “up to 30 Irish citizens and their dependents gaining entry into Egypt from today”.

We continue to work with the Israeli authorities on finalizing the lists and so on

Tanaiste Micheal Martin

He said every effort was continuing across government to ensure the safety of all Irish people in Gaza, the release of Irish-Israeli girl Emily Hand from Hamas and the safety of 450 soldiers in the area.

Twenty-three Irish citizens had crossed the border by midnight.

Around 35 to 40 Irish passport holders were believed to be in the enclave before Wednesday's crossings.

Ireland's Deputy Prime Minister Micheal Martin confirmed the crossings on Wednesday.

“We will bus them from there to Cairo, our diplomatic team is on the ground there in Rafah and then for transport to Dublin or wherever the citizens wish to go. It's good news,” he told RTE.

Mr Varadkar said calls to expel the Israeli ambassador to Ireland “will not be helpful and will in turn lead to the expulsion of the Irish ambassador to Israel”.

He told his parliamentary party meeting that these calls from opposition parties “are not common sense or responsible politics”, adding that “everyone is trying to outdo each other”.

Mr Varadkar added that recent statements by world leaders to stop fighting near hospitals, specifically calling for a ceasefire on all sides and respect for international law, were “somewhat encouraging”.

Meanwhile, Mr Martin met his Egyptian counterpart Sameh Shoukry and Arab League secretary-general Ahmed Aboul Gheit in Cairo on Wednesday and will hold talks with senior representatives from Israel and the Palestinian Authority in the coming days.

He said it was a “fluid” situation in terms of the number of citizens, and their dependents, who were yet to exit the crossing.

We had concerns that they hadn't come out earlier, if I'm honest, and I'm more relieved today than I've been in a long time because of course the situation in Gaza is very serious, very dangerous

Tanaiste Micheal Martin

“We continue to work on this with the Israeli authorities in terms of finalizing the lists and so on,” he said.

Mr Martin said Ireland's diplomatic network was working with authorities in Israel and Egypt to secure safe passage for Irish citizens trapped in Gaza.

“We had concerns that they hadn't come out earlier, to be honest, and I'm more relieved today than I've been in a while because of course the situation in Gaza is very serious, very dangerous,” he said.

It is very traumatic to have an eight-year-old girl in captivity without relatives, so we are very focused on that

Tanaiste Micheal Martin

Mr Martin said he had been in talks with authorities in Qatar in a bid to secure the release of Emily Hunt, eight, who is believed to be held hostage by Hamas in Gaza.

“It's very traumatic to have an eight-year-old girl in captivity without relatives, so we're very focused on that,” he said.

Mr Martin is in Egypt ahead of other planned trips to the region.

Emily's Dublin-born father Tom and her half-sister Natali were in Ireland this week along with relatives of other hostages to raise awareness of the situation and call for Irish support to secure their release.

They met Mr Martin in Dublin and also met Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and Irish President Michael D Higgins.