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Emily Hand
Hostages

'Have some humanity': Emily Hand's father begs Hamas to release her and other children

The eight-year-old Irish-Israeli girl was initially feared dead, but it has since emerged she may still be alive.

LAST UPDATE | Nov 6th 2023, 5:05 PM

THE FATHER OF Irish-Israeli child Emily Hand has begged Hamas to release her and the other children being held hostage in Gaza.

The eight-year-old girl was initially feared dead, but it has since emerged she may still be alive and being held hostage by Hamas in the Gaza Strip.

Emily had been on a sleepover in the Kibbutz Be’eri when it was raided by Hamas on 7 October. 

She has dual Irish and Israeli citizenship as her father Thomas Hand is originally from Dublin.

Speaking to Gavan Reilly and Zara King of Virgin Media News today, Thomas said: “I beg you, on bended knees, to please release the children including Emily.”

He called on Hamas to “start with the children” and “maybe the women later, maybe the old people later”, before adding there is not much chance that the men being held hostage will be released. 

“If you have any humanity inside of your body and soul, please release the children at least,” he said.

“For God’s sake, have some humanity, some pity, some humane feelings of any kind, please.”

Emily’s half-sister Natali earlier told RTÉ’s News at One that her family has been informed by the Israeli Defence Force and “other authorities” that there is a “high chance” Emily has been kidnapped and is alive. 

“We don’t know exactly the details, but we do know she’s kidnapped.

We just want to get her back. She’s an Irish citizen and we’re asking for all the help we can from you guys.

Natali’s mother was killed during the 7 October attacks and she said “it’s been a hell of a rollercoaster grieving about my mom and her (Emily)”.

“We’re like zombies, we have no tears left, we’re just broken and now we’ve got hope back and we’re strong now and we’ll do anything,” said Natali on reports that Emily is still alive.

‘Worse than death’ 

Speaking to CNN in the days following the Hamas attacks, Emily’s father spoke of his grief after being informed that she had died. 

Thomas said at the time: “They just said, we found Emily, she’s dead, and I went ‘Yes!’ and smiled, because that is the best news, of the possibilities I knew, that was the best possibility I was hoping for.

She was either dead or in Gaza, and if you know anything about what they do to people in Gaza, that is worse than death.

“The way they treat you, they have no food, they have no water, she’d be in a dark room filled with Christ knows how many people and for how many years to come.

“So death was a blessing, an absolute blessing.”

Natali today told RTÉ: “He (Thomas Hand) found out she was dead and as he was saying, nothing here makes sense.

“The thought of her being kidnapped and suffering, I don’t know what physical condition she is in, if they are starving her, I don’t know what they’re doing.

“It’s just a constant nightmare and he (my father) felt this way and I accept that… No one has a doubt that we want her back.”

Natali asked for “all the help” the Irish Government can provide and added: “I’ve never been there (Ireland) but I’m going to, I have to, and hopefully with my sister, my father and my brother.

“I have too many videos of her laughing and speaking, I want to hear that again. I just want to say ‘Emily, we’re on the way’ and we will have her back.”

Government response 

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar today said the Government is doing its “best” to get around 40 Irish citizens out of Gaza.

He told reporters: “There are in and around 40 Irish citizens in Gaza and we’re doing our best to get them out.

We’re doing that through contact with the Israeli authorities, but also with governments in the area who may have influence, the government of Egypt, the government of Jordan.

“The Tánaiste has been in touch with Iranian authorities too. So, very much top of our mind at the moment; these Irish citizens held in Gaza for one reason or another, and very much a priority for us to do anything we can to facilitate their release.”

Speaking to Morning Ireland earlier, Justice Minister Helen McEntee said the Government is doing everything it can to support Emily’s family.

“This is a hugely traumatic situation for her family and for every family who finds themselves with their loved one held hostage,” McEntee said.

She added: “We’re doing everything that we can to support this family and others to make sure that people can be returned home safely to their families.”

McEntee also noted that the Irish Government has “called from the very beginning for Hamas to release any hostages that they might have”.

She added that “where Irish citizens are involved here, every effort is being made to support them”.

The Department of Foreign Affairs is “is providing consular assistance to her family”. “We will not be commenting further at this time,” a statement noted.

According to the Israeli Government, 241 hostages are being held by Hamas inside Gaza.

Most were taken by armed militants during the 7 October attacks in which 1,400 Israelis were killed. The death toll in Gaza has surpassed 10,000 people, according to the Hamas-run Gaza Health Ministry. 

Contains reporting by Órla Ryan

Author
Niall O'Connor and Diarmuid Pepper