A little girl abducted from a kibbutz by Hamas turned nine years old on Friday while still in the captivity of the militant group.
Emily Hand, who holds Israeli and Irish citizenship, was taken while at a sleepover at her friend’s house in Kibbutz Be’eri. Emily’s friend’s mom, Raya Rotem, was also taken, with Israel estimating that over 240 people were abducted by Hamas in total and taken to Gaza. More than 100 people were brutally killed in Emily’s kibbutz.
In the days after the massacre, in which families were slaughtered together and some people were allegedly burned alive, Emily’s father was told she was among the dead. In a heartbreaking viral interview at the time, Tom Hand told CNN about his relief that his daughter had been killed—calling it the best scenario for what might have happened to her as gunmen rampaged through their community.
“You hope that it was quick,” Tom, a 64-year-old Irish immigrant who moved to Be’eri in 1992, told Reuters last week. “Crazy thought, for a parent to say but, yeah, it was a relief thinking that she wasn’t in Gaza.”
Emily’s mother, Liat, died when Emily was just than 2-and-a-half years old, but Tom and his daughter chose to stay in the kibbutz. Tom’s first wife, Narkis, also lived there—she was among those killed on Oct. 7.
After several weeks of believing his daughter was dead, Tom was told by the Israeli army that Emily’s body had not, in fact, been found. It was at that point that he realized she was likely being held as a captive in Hamas’ tunnels below Gaza.
“She’s going to be nine in the tunnels,” he said. “She won’t even know it’s her birthday. She’ll have no idea of night or day or time.” He went on: “There’ll be no birthday party, no birthday cake, no friends around. But you know, yeah. Now we hope, now we pray.”
Reports have emerged in recent days suggesting that negotiations are ongoing for Hamas to release a number of hostages in exchange for Israel pausing its attacks in Gaza. As yet, no agreement has been reached, and just four hostages have been released by Hamas. Another hostage, an Israeli soldier, was rescued by the Israeli military.
After learning that Emily is still alive, Tom says he’s now transformed his mindset to: “OK, we’re going to get her back, we’re going to get her back. We’re going to get them all back.” He said Emily is a big Beyoncé fan and he plans to do everything he can to make his daughter happy if they are reunited.
“I’ll make sure I’ll get her to the next Beyoncé concert,” Tom said. “Bring her to Disney World, I’ll spend all my money, every penny I’ve got to give her fun to make up for everything that she’s lost and everything she’s going through. I’m going to give her the world.”