Family of Girl Thought Killed by Hamas Now Has Hope

Family told by Israeli officials that Emily Hand, 8, may be alive, being held hostage in Gaza
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 6, 2023 7:58 AM CST

When Tom Hand first got the news after Hamas' Oct. 7 attack on Israel that his 8-year-old daughter, Emily, was among those who'd been killed, he said he actually felt relief. "Death was a blessing," the Irish citizen told CNN at the time in an emotional interview last month. "If you know anything about what they do to people in Gaza—that is worse than death." Now, a stunning development: The family says they've been informed that Emily may still be alive, reports the Irish Times.

Natty Virado, the boyfriend of Hand's older daughter Natalie, tells the paper that they were informed last week that Israeli intelligence agents think there's a "high chance" the little girl wasn't killed but was instead abducted to Gaza, a fact the Irish Embassy to Israel confirms, per RTE. An embassy official says that DNA tests on remains found at Kibbutz Be'eri, where Emily had been attending a sleepover, didn't find that Emily was among them.

The more than 100 people killed at the kibbutz were part of the 1,400-plus Israeli deaths during the Hamas massacre on Oct. 7, with dozens of others from the kibbutz still missing, per the BBC. Hand, who was born in Dublin, had married a woman who lived on the kibbutz after volunteering there and had two children with her, including Natalie. After their divorce, he married Emily's mother, who died five years ago of breast cancer.

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In a Sunday interview on Israeli TV, Emily's half sister offered a message for the girl, per the Times of Israel. "I want to tell you that we are doing everything to get you home," Natalie Hand said into the camera. "We know you are being held hostage. We love you so much and miss you." Irish Minister for Justice Helen McEntee, meanwhile, says "every effort" is being made to seek the release of Emily and ensure the safety of other Irish citizens in Israel and Gaza, per the Irish Times. (More Israel-Hamas war stories.)

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