Emily Hand’s relatives initially believed the eight-year-old girl had been killed in the kibbutz massacre. But now there is a glimmer of hope: she would still be alive and held hostage in Gaza.
Thomas Hand mourned the death of his eight-year-old daughter Emily for weeks. Israeli authorities told him that she had been murdered in Kibbutz Be’eri, where Hamas carried out a massacre on October 7. A few days after the attack he reported CNN that he was relieved when he heard the news. “Yes, I said. I laughed. This is the best that could have happened. I hoped for it. She could either be dead or in Gaza. And if you know what they do to people in Gaza… How they treat you there, that’s worse than death. They have no food, no water. She would be sitting in a dark room with god knows how many people. She would be scared every moment of the day. Her death is actually a blessing,” he said.
But now there is suddenly still hope that the girl might live. “We are very happy,” he said Sky News after hearing the news. “We’ll have to patch her up. That will take years, but we just want her back. We want to hug her again. Watching her dance and sing.”
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“We are safe with our toys”
The 8-year-old was staying with a friend when Hamas stormed in and opened fire on the kibbutz. A final video taken by Emily that morning shows her huddled in the basement with her friend and that friend’s mother. “We are in the safe room with our toys,” the video says.
It was initially believed that she had been murdered and her body identified. But according to her father, the family was told weeks later that an error had been made in the identification and no trace of Emily’s DNA was found after all. According to Thomas, two phones, the girlfriend’s and the mother’s, have been traced to Gaza. But Thomas now struggles with the idea of her being held in a tunnel.
“At first I had the feeling that the nightmare was over, but then I was suddenly in it again. We’re all back in it now,” Thomas said. Yet he clings to the idea that “his angel,” who he says has “amazing inner strength and spirit,” will return. And if she returns? “Then I won’t lose sight of her. I just want to hold her and never let her go.”