- Irish-Israeli Emily Hand, 8, was believed to have been killed at Kibbutz Be’eri
- Her father, Thomas Hand, said he welcomed the news of her apparent death
- But Israeli officials have told her family that she is likely a hostage of Hamas
Emily Hand, a young Irish-Israeli girl, was reported to have been one of the at least 130 people killed in the deadly massacre at Kibbutz Be’eri, where she spent the night of October 6 to October 7 at a sleepover at her friend’s house.
Thinking she was killed, her devastated family spent the last month mourning but today revealed Israeli authorities had told them the schoolgirl is a hostage of Hamas, and is likely somewhere in Gaza.
Emily’s older sister, Natalie Hand, told Israeli broadcaster Channel 12: ‘We were told that she had been murdered. We were in mourning.
‘On October 31, they told us that it was highly likely that she had been abducted.’
When Natalie was asked whether she had anything she wanted to say to Emily, on the off-chance she was listening, she said: ‘I want to tell you that we are doing everything to get you home. We know you are being held hostage. We love you so much and miss you.’
Natalie added that Israeli officials told her Emily’s friend and her mother, whose house she was staying at, were also likely to be Hamas hostages as well.
It comes after her father, Irish-born Thomas Hand, said that he was glad to hear that she was dead as he was terrified of how she would have been treated by Hamas terrorists.
Mr Hand, who is not Jewish and was born in the coastal town of Dún Laoghaire in the Republic of Ireland, said in an interview with CNN just days after Hamas’ secretive attack against Israel: ‘[Israeli authorities] 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,’ he said.
‘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.’
Mr. Hand told the Irish Times: ‘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.’
Gunmen travelled via land and air, paragliding into Israel and attacking a music festival, gunning down more than 260 people.
Elsewhere, Hamas militants killed entire villages 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 has retaliated by bombarding Gaza relentlessly.
Tel Aviv’s retaliation, which has included a ground incursion into the territory, has killed more than 9,700 people, according to the Hamas-run Gaza health ministry.
Around 240 hostages are believed to be held by Hamas in Gaza, after the militant group attacked communities across southern Israel on October 7 – triggering a fierce bombing campaign and ground incursion of the territory by the Israeli military.
Five hostages have been released to date, including four after negotiations through a diplomatic backchannel and one following an operation by the Israeli army.
In a televised address, Abu Obeida, a spokesman for Ezzedine Al-Qassam Brigades, said: ‘We have informed intermediaries that we will release a certain number of foreigners in the next few days.’
The announcement came as international warnings increased over the spiralling bloodshed and mounting humanitarian crisis in Gaza, on a day in which Israeli troops and Hamas militants engaged in ‘fierce battles’ in the north of the strip.
‘Gaza will be a graveyard and a quagmire for the enemy, its soldiers and its political and military leadership,’ said Obeida.
The Gaza Strip has tonight come under its third total communications outage since the start of the war, while Israel’s military announced it had encircled Gaza City and divided the besieged coastal territory into two.
‘Today there is north Gaza and south Gaza,’ IDF spokesperson Daniel Hagari claimed, calling it a ‘significant stage’ in Israel’s war against Hamas.
Israeli media reported that troops are expected to enter Gaza City within the next 48 hours.
While massive explosions were seen in the northern Gaza Strip after dusk on Sunday evening, the latest ‘collapse in connectivity’ across Gaza reported by internet access advocacy group NetBlocks.org, and confirmed by Palestinian telecom company Paltel, made it even more complicated to share details on the new stage of the military offensive.
Earlier on Sunday, Israeli planes struck two central Gaza refugee camps, killing at least 53 people and wounding dozens, health officials said.
Israel said it would press on with its offensive to crush the territory’s Hamas rulers, despite US appeals for even brief pauses to get aid to desperate civilians.