‘We’re going to have to fix her. It’s going to take years, but we want her back’: Father who mourned death of his 8-year-old daughter Emily Hand for a month says chances she has been abducted by Hamas has given family hope
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A father who believed for weeks that his eight-year-old daughter had been slaughtered by Hamas on October 7 has told of his family’s joy at being told she may be alive and hopes for her return home.
Irish-Israeli Emily Hand was reported to have been among at least 130 people killed in the massacre at Kibbutz Be’eri, where she had been staying for a sleepover at her friend’s house.
Her Irish father, Thomas Hand, initially said that he was relieved to hear that his daughter was dead, as he was more terrified of how she would have been treated by Hamas terrorists and the conditions she would face in captivity.
That was until this week, when he revealed that after a month of mourning, Israeli authorities told his family that the schoolgirl is likely a Hamas hostage being held somewhere inside the besieged Gaza Strip.
Irish-Israeli Emily Hand was reported to have been among at least 130 people killed in the deadly massacre at Kibbutz Be’eri
Mr Hand, who is not Jewish and was born in Dún Laoghaire, near Dublin, described his daughter as an ‘innocent angel’ whose passion was music.
Asked why it had initially been a relief to the family when they had been told Emily was dead, Mr Hand said: ‘Because she [was] not going through what she’s going through now.
‘It will break any normal person, a month in captivity under whatever conditions… so yeah, at the time it was a relief.’
‘But now, we’re very, very happy,’ he went on, ‘that there’s a chance that she’s alive and will come out of it, no matter how broken, physically or mentally.
‘We’re going to have to fix her. It’s going to take years, but we want her back.’
He said that if he could tell Emily one thing, it would be to ‘be strong’. ‘We know you’re strong, come back,’ he said.
He added that despite his daughter’s young age, she has an ‘amazing internal strength and spirit’.
Through tears, he said that if his daughter did make it home safe: ‘I won’t let her out of my sight… I just want to hold her and never let go’.
Emily’s half-sister, Nathalie, told Sky that she had received a video from the little girl who was hiding in a safe room on the morning Hamas launched its bloody invasion of southern Israel
In a heartbreaking interview, Mr Hand expressed his family’s desperate wishes to get their little girl back
Revealing details of the painstaking investigation carried out at the scene of the massacre, Mr Hand said he had been told that there was no evidence that his daughter had been killed there.
He said that no blood was found around or near the house that matched the DNA of Emily or her friend: ‘They were dragged to Gaza, we presume.’
He added that two cellphones, belonging to Emily’s friend and her mother, have been tracked to Gaza, which he said is only ‘an indicator’ as the phones could easily have been stolen.
Emily’s half-sister, Nathalie, told Sky that she had received a video from the little girl who was hiding in a safe room on the morning Hamas launched its bloody invasion of southern Israel.
Emily Hand, a young Irish-Israeli girl, was reported to have been one of at least 130 people killed in the deadly massacre at Kibbutz Be’eri
Pictured: Emily Hand. The eight-year-old girl had stayed the night at a friend’s house on Friday, October 6, her father Thomas said
‘We’re in the safe room with our toys,’ the little girl reportedly says in the clip sent before they lost contact.
Mr Hand has said he now struggles with imagining where Emily might be, suggesting the terrorist group might be holding her in its network of tunnels.
He said the family had begun the mourning process when they were told Emily was likely not dead.
‘I went from feeling the nightmare is over to, okay, I’m, I’m back in it. We’re all back in it now,’ he said.
Ireland’s justice minister, Helen McEntee, said this week that the government is doing everything it can to support Emily’s family.
Ms McEntee told RTE: ‘This is a hugely traumatic situation for her family and for every family who finds themselves with their loved one held hostage.
‘We are doing everything that we can to support this family and others to make sure that people can be returned home safely to their families.
‘We have called from the very beginning for Hamas to release any hostages that they might have. And, of course, where Irish citizens are involved here every effort has been made to support them.’
Israeli tanks cross the border from the Gaza Strip to southern Israel
Palestinians search for casualties at the Magazi Refugee Camp after Israeli airstrikes
Smoke rises from Gaza as the war continues to unfold
Hamas terrorists stormed into Israel from Gaza in their thousands, slaughtering civilians in the border region around the territory. Israel says around 1,400 people were killed, making it the most deadly terror attack in the country’s history.
Gunmen shot and burned families in their own homes. Children and even babies were found shot in cold blood and even beheaded, officials have said.
In response, Israel unleashed an unrelenting bombardment and siege of Gaza, killing thousands and leaving millions with rapidly dwindling supplies.
It also launched a ground offensive and has now encircled Gaza City, which before the war was home to around 1.1 million people. Many have now fled south.
The health ministry in Gaza, which is run by Hamas, says more than 9,770 people, many of them women and children, have been killed in Israeli strikes and the intensifying ground campaign in the month since the attack.
Last month, Mr Hand told the Irish Times of his daughter: ‘She was a little angel and she actually looked like an angel. She was very, very sociable and she loved music.
‘She would sing in the house all day long and she loved dancing. She would watch videos of Beyoncé; she was her favourite and would pick up the moves really quickly.
‘She was always chosen for the dance routines on the stage for the kibbutz for the holidays – always front and centre, so if the other kids forgot the steps they could just look at Emily. She was exceptional.’
Five hostages have been released to date, including four after negotiations through a diplomatic backchannel and one following an operation by the Israeli army.
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