The father of an Irish-Israeli girl believed to be held hostage by Hamas has said discovering her fate was “even worse than knowing she was dead”.
Emily Hand was initially thought to be dead after Hamas attacked Israel on October 7.
However, the Irish Embassy in Israel recently reported Ms Hand’s DNA was not found among victims and it is now believed she was taken hostage by Hamas.
It is suspected the hostages are being held in underground tunnels constructed by Hamas.
Her father, Dublin-born Tom Hand, was among the relatives of some suspected hostages today who launched an international appeal for Hamas to free all hostages.
He is due to meet Taoiseach Leo Varadkar this evening and has appealed for Hamas to release his daughter and other hostages.
'There'll be no cake, no party, no friends. She'll spend her birthday in the tunnels of Hamas.' The father of 8-year-old Emily Hand, an Irish-Israeli girl believed to be held hostage in Gaza, has made an appeal for her release. pic.twitter.com/gydTuY7HKI
— NewstalkFM (@NewstalkFM) November 13, 2023
Mr Hand told Newstalk it was “very difficult to initially learn that she was dead”.
“But then to find that she was actually kidnapped... it’s actually even worse news than knowing she was dead,” he said.
“There’s a finality to death; we were grieving and as hard as grieving for your daughter is, knowing she’s in Gaza in those awful tunnels is awful.”
November 17th is Ms Hand’s birthday, and her father said she will “have a birthday in the tunnels of Gaza”.
“No birthday cake, presents, party friends around her, family around her,” he said.
“The saddest part is she won’t know it’s her birthday – she won’t know what day it is; she won't even know if it's day or night.”
'It's been 37 days already'
Mr Hand said he doesn’t “want to think what she's going through”.
“I don't know whether she's getting enough food and water, I don’t even know about the toilet facilities, if any,” he said.
“It’s been 37 days already – it's a very long time to live in this horrible, horrible nightmare.
“It could go on for more days, weeks, who knows?”
Mr Hand said the international community need to put pressure on Hamas to free the remaining hostages.
'War against Hamas'
Israeli Ambassador Dana Erlich said she and the families of hostages are launching an “international appeal”.
“We're calling all of the international community to join us in the field for the immediate release of all of these kidnapped babies, children, men, women held in Gaza,” she said.
“This is not a cry for a ceasefire - there needs to be an international appeal for Hamas to surrender.
“This is why we're saying this is not just the Israel's war - this is an international war against Hamas and terrorism.”
Ms Erlich said “what is happening in Gaza is horrible” but we don’t know the “specific number” of victims.
“We know that their civilians are getting hurt, but we also need to make sure that Hamas is accountable for that,” she said.
“Hamas is the one that [is] hiding in hospitals, in schools, in mosques, behind their population.
“The pressure needs to be on Hamas to stop not just targeting Israel and stop firing missiles at Israel, but also to let their people evacuate.”