Father of former Gaza hostage bitter over Irish policies

By Rami Amichay Hannah Confino

EIN GEDI, Israel (Reuters) - Living in temporary accommodation in the desert above the Dead Sea, nine-year-old Emily Hand and her father Thomas slowly recover from an ordeal that has upended their lives as the Gaza war rages.

Emily, a dual Irish-Israeli citizen, was kidnapped by Hamas militants on Oct. 7 last year during a rampage of killing and destruction on her Kibbutz Be'eri. She spent 50 harrowing days in captivity in Gaza until her release in November.

Since her reunification with her father, Dublin-born Thomas Hand, they have been moving from one place of temporary accommodation to another, carrying only a few belongings and the family dog.

Hand said his native Ireland had been instrumental in the release of his daughter. But he voiced strong criticism of the Irish government's recognition of a Palestinian state.

He feels the step rewards Hamas, the Palestinian Islamist group which kidnapped his daughter after the attack on Israel in which 1,200 people were killed and more than 250 taken to Gaza as hostages.

Israel responded with an offensive that has killed more than 36,000 people and reduced much of Gaza to rubble.

Ireland said its stance is rooted in seeking a peaceful resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

"We're praying for it to happen, and for all of this to end. All they (Hamas) have to do is hand over the hostages and the war is over," said Hand.

He tries to provide a sense of normalcy for Emily, and says that, despite one or two triggers, she is on track for a full recovery.

Tens of thousands of Israelis have been displaced from the southern communities near the border with Gaza amid the ongoing war, and also from northern Israel due to ongoing cross-border hostilities between Hezbollah and Israeli forces.

(Editing by Michael Georgy and Angus MacSwan)