An Irish-born man whose young daughter is believed to have been adducted by Hamas during a raid on an Israeli kibbutz last month has branded the horrifying ordeal as "his worst nightmare".
Thomas Hand said his nine-year-old daughter Emily was enjoying a sleepover with friends near her family home in Be’eri on the night of October 6, when they were awoken by a Hamas raid. Hand went to his safe room at home as sirens sounded, alerting the community of the attack. When he emerged, he was told Emily was gone. Israeli authorities later informed him they were sure Emily had been killed.
It was later established, thanks to intelligence relayed to the Irish embassy in Israel, that it was "likely" Emily had in fact survived the attack and was now among the 240 Israelis taken hostage in Gaza.
Hand's powerful reaction to news his daughter had been killed made global headlines in October, after he tearfully revealed his relief she was not in the hands of militants — a feeling that was short-lived.
Now, he's described how it's been living his worst nightmare, revealing he believes his daughter would be by now "very broken" and would "take a long time to fix", RTÉ reported.
Heartbroken dad 'just waiting for news' of daughter
“They took her away, led away by terrorists… kidnapped and taken to Gaza,” Mr Hand told reporters at a news conference at the Israeli embassy in London, where hostages’ families pleaded for their freedom. “And now we are just waiting for news. This is my worst nightmare — believe me, it’s a nightmare. If you have families and kids, just imagine one day [that] one of them is gone.
"The sheer terror of a nine-year old-girl down in those dark tunnels — sheer terror and panic every hour of every day. She must be saying every day: ‘Where is my daddy — why isn’t he coming to save me?’"
Hand said hopes of Emily being returned is his "reason for living and getting up in the morning every day".
“I pray I get Emily back," he continued.
Father sceptical of daughter's release
“I don’t know what condition she’s going to be in, but she’s going to be very broken mentally and physically and we’ll have to fix that. It’s going to take a long time to fix that.
"That’s what we’ve got to do, and we will do it no matter how long it takes.”
Asked about reports that suggest a deal to release hostages is close to being agreed, Hand said he'll believe it when he sees it.
More than 100 people were killed in the kibbutz attack on the morning of October 7, which came as Hamas breached Israel's borders in an assault that killed an estimated 1200 people.
The Israeli Defence Force (IDF) launched a series of repeated attacks on Gaza in response, which continue today, and have so far killed upwards of 13,000 Palestinians — over 4000 of whom are children. An estimated 30,000 people have been injured and over a million displaced.
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