Father of Irish-Israeli child hostage says he’s living a ‘nightmare’

The father of a nine-year-old Irish-Israeli boy taken hostage during the Hamas attack on Israel has said he will believe there will be a hostage release deal “when I see it”.

Thomas Hand initially believed his daughter Emily, who was on her way to a night out at a friend's house, had been killed on October 7, but was later told she had been abducted from Kibbutz Be'eri and taken to Gaza.

Mr Hunt told a news conference at the Israeli embassy in London on Monday morning that he was living a “nightmare” and that Emily's return was “his reason to live”.

Mr Hunt, who wept as he spoke about his missing daughter, said: ‘I'm praying to get Emily back.

“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're going to have to fix that.

“It will take a long time to fix this.

“This is what we have to do and we will do it however long it takes.

“This is my primary focus, the reason I live and wake up in the morning every day.”

He added that he was frightened by the thought of “the sheer terror of a nine-year-old girl down in those dark tunnels that never saw the light of day”.

“She has to say every day, ‘Where's my dad, why didn't he come to save me?'

Mr Hunt, who wore a T-shirt with the message “Bring them home now”, said the hostage-taking was “pure terrorism, pure evil”.

As for media reports that a deal to free the hostages is getting closer, Mr Hunt said: “I'll believe it when I see it.”

Mr Hand, originally from Dun Laoghaire in Dublin, said getting “proof of life” was “the most critical thing to keep them (hostages) alive for us now”.

He said: “Hamas in its psychological warfare tactics does not allow the Red Cross to take any proof of life,” adding that this “continues our pain and suffering.”

Mr Hunt said Emily was “a little innocent child”, adding that she played piano and guitar and that “music was her passion”.

The Israeli embassy said it believed 240 hostages were being held in Gaza, including at least 30 children.

Iris Haim, another speaker at the press conference, said her son, Yotam, had been abducted from Kfar Aza on October 7 as he prepared to perform at a festival in Tel Aviv.

Mrs Haim, originally from Haifa, said her 28-year-old son found himself “in an inferno of guns, shooting and shooting” 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 been captured somewhere.”

Ms Haim said she believed the hostages would be released in stages and understood her son was unlikely to be one of the first to be freed, but added: “I have a strong belief he will come back anyway.”