An eight-year-old Irish-Israeli girl who was thought to have been killed during a Hamas attack on an Israeli kibbutz last month may in fact be alive, with fresh intelligence claiming there's a "high possibility" the little girl was taken hostage, not murdered.
Emily Hand — who was born in Israel — was enjoying a sleepover on the night of October 6 with her friends at a kibbutz near her family home in Be’eri. Her Irish-born father, Thomas Hand, said he went to his safe room as sirens sounded, alerting the community of the attack.
When he emerged, Israeli authorities told him they were positive Emily had been killed.
Hand's powerful reaction to news his daughter had been killed made global headlines last month, after he revealed his relief she was not in the hands of militants.
“They just said, we found Emily. She's dead. I went, 'Yes!' and smiled, because that is the best news of the possibilities I knew," Mr Hand told CNN at the time. "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."
"I knew the alternative for my daughter. I knew she'd either be found dead or kidnapped and taken to Gaza," he said. "The thought of a little eight-year-old child in the hands of those animals... Can you imagine the sheer horror for an eight-year-old child?"
Emily 'likely' alive, being held hostage
But now, one month into the devastating conflict — which has so far seen 10,000 Palestinians killed, mostly civilians, in the 32 days of Israeli attacks on the Gaza Strip — it's emerged that Emily may indeed be alive.
According to Irish news outlet RTÉ, Israeli officials told Hand that fresh intelligence suggested there was a high chance that Emily was alive and being held hostage in Gaza by Hamas, alongside roughly 240 others.
An official from the Irish embassy in Israel has also since confirmed that no DNA matched to Emily's was found at the ruined kibbutz where 100 people were killed on October 7 near the Gaza border. The official confirmed to RTÉ that Emily was suspected to be alive.
Dad 'regrets' emotional interview
Sitting down with the BBC, Hand said he "regrets" parts of his emotional interview in the wake of the news his daughter had reportedly died.
"Because of some of the things I said that might have put her in danger. We can only hope that we get her back alive.
Emily's half-sister Natali, 26, spoke on Israeli TV and addressed her sister directly. "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," she said.
Conflict continues into fifth week
Israel says since October 7, 1400 of its people — mostly civilians — have been killed by Hamas militants.
Of the estimated 10,022 Palestinians killed since Israel's response, 4,104 are believed to have been children.
The total number of Palestinians injured now exceeds 25,000, a with the nation's health ministry revealing today that Israel had conducted 18 attacks in the last few hours alone, killing hundreds more.
More on the Israeli-Hamas war
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