The father of a nine-year-old Irish-Israeli child who was kidnapped during the Hamas assault on Israel said he is “living through a nightmare” as he renewed calls for the release of his daughter and the other hostages.
Thomas Hand initially thought his daughter Emily, who had been attending a sleepover at a friend’s house, had been killed on October 7, but he was later told she had been kidnapped and taken to Gaza.
Mr Hand said at a press conference at the Israeli embassy in London on Monday that getting Emily back was his “reason for living”.
Mr Hand, originally from Dun Laoghaire in Dublin, cried as he spoke of his missing daughter, and said: “I pray I get Emily back.”
At least 240 people are being held captive by Hamas in the Gaza Strip, including 30 children. Reports suggest that a deal that could allow for the release of some hostages is imminent.
But Mr Hand said: “I’ll believe it when I see it”.
He added that getting his daughter home was his “prime focus, my reason for living and getting up in the morning every day”.
Mr Hand added that he was horrified by the thought of “the sheer terror of a nine-year-old girl down in those dark tunnels never seeing the light of day”.
“She must be saying every day: ‘Where’s my daddy, why didn’t he come to save me?'”
Mr Hand, who was wearing a T-shirt with a “Bring them home now” message on it, said that the taking of hostages was “pure terrorism, pure evil”.
He said that getting “proof of life” was the “most crucial thing that will keep them [the hostages] alive for us now”.
“Hamas in their psychological warfare tactics are not allowing the Red Cross to get any proof of life,” Mr Hand said and added that this was “carrying on our pain and torment”.
“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.
“That’s what we’ve got to do and we will do it no matter how long it takes.”
Iris Haim, another speaker at the press conference, said her son, Yotam, had been kidnapped from Kfar Aza on October 7 as he prepared to play at a festival in Tel Aviv.
Ms Haim, originally from Haifa, said her 28-year-old son found himself “in a hell of guns, shooting and firing” during the Hamas attack on Israel.
She added that she was “really worried” about Yotam, a drummer for heavy metal band Persephore, as he has a medical condition that requires monthly medication.
“We are really worried and as a mother I cannot explain what I feel – my son is not with me. He didn’t go on a trip to London – he’s captured somewhere.”
Ms Haim said she thought hostages would be “freed by steps” and understood her son was unlikely to be one of the first to be released, but added: “I have a strong belief that he will come back anyway.”