- Emily Hand was snatched from her bed during the Hamas attacks on October 7
A father has told of his pain as his daughter Emily Hand turns nine in Hamas captivity today after being dragged to Gaza by ruthless gunmen.
Emily was snatched from her bed at the Kibbutz Be’eri while visiting a friend for a sleepover when thousands of armed terrorists swarmed across the nearby Gaza border on October 7.
Thomas Hand initially thought his daughter was among the 1,200 killed but later discovered she is in the 311-mile labyrinth of the ‘Metro Gaza’ – in conditions he compared to the Holocaust.
An emotional Mr Hand, 63, told The Sun: ‘We will only celebrate when she gets home.
‘Then we will throw a massive party with presents and balloons and a cake with all her friends invited.’
In a message directed towards Emily’s captors, Mr Hand said: ‘They are not soldiers. They are just children. Please let them go.’
He added: ‘Before this, Emily was always smiling. Her real passion was music. She loved Beyonce and would copy her dance moves.’
Mr Hand travelled to Israel three decades ago to volunteer on a kibbutz near the Gaza border.
He married a local woman named Narkis and the pair had two children Aiden, 29, and Natali, 26, before they split.
He then had this third child Emily with another partner who died of cancer when she was two.
The father’s kibbutz had to endure some of the worst traged, with around 10 per cent of the 1,200 murdered by Hamas – including his ex-wife.
Mr Hand had rejoiced when he was initially told his daughter was among the 1,400 killed in the attack, given the horrors awaiting the 240 hostages dragged back to Gaza.
He fought back tears ahead of her ninth birthday as he admitted he still cannot imagine what she is going through, but he insisted he ‘can’t let my feelings interfere with getting her back’.
‘You know, she is not going to come back, none of them are going to come back the way they went in,’ he told CNN.
‘I don’t want to think of what conditions she’s in. Could be like the cattle, train carts in the Second World War.
‘They were just all in a cattle car and pee and poo where you stood.’
But he promised to ‘give her the world’ in a bid to repair the damage if she returns as backchannel negotiations over the hostages’ fate take place in Qatar.
‘They are going to be mentally and physically and emotionally broken, and that’s going to take a lot of fixing.
‘I’m not going to send her to school for at least a year. We’re going to give her the world. Just happy times. And fix her.’
He said a trip to Disney World was among his plans as he campaigns to secure her release.
‘I don’t watch the news. I haven’t got time for it. It’s just full on get Emily back,’ he added.
The Irish-born dad reflected on how he felt when Israeli authorities told him his ‘exceptional’ daughter was among the thousands caught up in the Hamas attack.
‘They said ‘We found Emily. She’s dead’, and I just went ‘Yes!’ I went ‘yes’, and I smiled, because that is the best news of the possibilities that I knew.
‘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.
‘They’d have no food. They’d have no water. She’d be in a dark room filled with Christ knows how many people, and terrified every minute, hour, day, and possible years to come.
‘So death was a blessing. An absolute blessing.’
He said he cannot cope with the realization that his little girl is being held hostage at the heart of Hamas’s underground terror network as the battle rages around her.
‘I can’t. I actually keep her in a special place, and I don’t want to imagine what she’s going through,’ he said.
‘Every day, 38 days now. I can’t think about it. It would be too painful.
‘She is down in the tunnels of Gaza with Hamas. I don’t want to think of what conditions she’s in. How she is being treated. How she is being fed. How she is — if she has been given water. Just has she got a toothbrush?’
President Joe Biden raised hopes on Tuesday that a deal could be struck between Israel and Hamas to free the hostages in exchange for a pause in the Israeli attack on Gaza which has claimed over 11,000 Palestinian lives.
And Hamas’s military wing, the Qassam Brigades, said in a statement last night that negotiations were focusing on the possible release of 70 women and children in exchange for a five-day pause in the fighting, as backchannel talks continue in Qatar.
But Hand said he had ‘very, very little’ information on his daughter or what chances there are for her release.
‘I know for a fact that she’s not dead,’ he said.
‘You know for a fact that she was led away by Hamas terrorists. There are eyewitness accounts of it.
‘Someone saw her being led away. Her and her friend and her friend’s mother.’
‘You know, America has a lot of influence all over the world. If he (Biden) says that, obviously, he knows more than I do, and every little bit of information gives us hope that we can get Emily and at least the children and babies out of Gaza.’
‘We have been working non-stop to put pressure on all the governments all over the world to do their best to get, particularly my little Emily, back home,’ Hand said.
‘She is an Irish citizen, so we put a lot of pressure on the Irish government.
‘We are doing everything that we possibly can to get her home, and all the hostages. At least the children.
‘They could start off with the babies and the children.
‘They’ve got babies being kidnapped over there.’
He said the support he has received from well-wishers across the world has been ‘tremendous’ and ‘we just keep moving forward’.
‘Yeah, the campaign is viral, I suppose you’d called it, and it’s been great, the support that we’re being given,’ he said.
‘I don’t have time to look at the interviews. I don’t watch the news. I haven’t got time for it. It’s just full on get it Emily back.’