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Tuesday 28 November 2023 Dublin: 5°C
Alamy Thomas Hand, center, father of Emily Hand, and Orit Meir, right, mother of hostage Almog Meir
israel-hamas war

Father of Irish-Israeli child hostage Emily Hand says he is living through ‘nightmare’

Thomas Hand initially thought his daughter, who had been at a sleepover at a friend’s house, had been killed on 7 October.

THE FATHER OF nine-year-old Irish-Israeli Emily Hand who was taken hostage during the Hamas assault on Israel has said he will believe a deal to release hostages is in place “when I see it”.

Thomas Hand initially thought his daughter, who had been attending a sleepover at a friend’s house, had been killed on 7 October, but was later told she had been kidnapped from Kibbutz Be’eri and taken to Gaza.

Hand said at a press conference at the Israeli embassy in London this morning that he was living through a “nightmare” and getting Emily back was his “reason for living”.

Hand, who cried as he spoke of his missing daughter, said: “I pray I get Emily back.

“I don’t know what condition she’s going to be in, but she’s going to be very broken mentally and physically and we’ll have to fix that.

“It’s going to take a long time to fix that.

“That’s what we’ve got to do and we will do it no matter how long it takes.

“That’s my prime focus, my reason for living and getting up in the morning every day.”

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar spoke today with the Prime Minister of Qatar, Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman bin Jassim Al Thani, regarding the case of Emily Hand.

Al Thani said they are aware of the case and said that children will be a priority in any negotiated release.

When the Taoiseach met Emily Hand’s family and the Israeli Ambassador to Ireland last week, he pledged that he would use all channels of communication to pursue Emily’s release.

Last week he spoke to the International Committee of the Red Cross and Red Crescent, having previously raised her case with the Palestinian Prime Minister, the Egyptian Foreign Minister and Prince Rashid of Jordan.

thomas-hand-the-father-of-nine-year-old-irish-israeli-child-emily-hand-left-helps-to-comfort-iris-haim-the-mother-of-yotam-haim-hidden-and-orit-meir-the-mother-of-almog-meir-jan-21-who-are-all Alamy Thomas Hand, the father of nine-year-old Irish-Israeli child Emily Hand (left) helps to comfort Iris Haim, the mother of Yotam Haim Alamy

Thomas Hand added that he was horrified by the thought of “the sheer terror of a nine-year-old girl down in those dark tunnels never seeing the light of day”.

“She must be saying every day: ‘Where’s my daddy, why didn’t he come to save me?’”

Hand, who was wearing a T-shirt with a “Bring them home now” message on it, said that the taking of hostages was “pure terrorism, pure evil”.

In regard to media reports which have suggested a deal to release hostages was edging closer, Hand said: “I’ll believe it when I see it”.

Hand, originally from Dún Laoghaire in Dublin, said that getting “proof of life” was the “most crucial thing that will keep them (hostages) alive for us now”.

He said: “Hamas in their psychological warfare tactics are not allowing the Red Cross to get any proof of life”, adding that this was “carrying on our pain and torment”.

Hand said Emily was “a bubbly little innocent child”, adding she played the piano and guitar and that “music was her passion”.

The Israeli embassy said it believed 240 hostages are being held in Gaza, including at least 30 children.

Iris Haim, another speaker at the press conference, said her son, Yotam, had been kidnapped from Kfar Aza on 7 October as he prepared to play at a festival in Tel Aviv.

Haim, originally from Haifa, said her 28-year-old son found himself “in a hell of guns, shooting and firing” during the Hamas attack on Israel.

She added that she was “really worried” about Yotam, a drummer for heavy metal band Persephore, as he has a medical condition that requires monthly medication.

“We are really worried and as a mother I cannot explain what I feel – my son is not with me. He didn’t go on a trip to London – he’s captured somewhere.”

Haim said she thought hostages would be “freed by steps” and understood her son was unlikely to be one of the first to be released, but added: “I have a strong belief that he will come back anyway.”

Additional reporting by Jane Matthews 

Press Association