Father whose nine-year-old daughter Emily Hand was taken hostage by Hamas’ October 7 attacks on Israel speaks at demonstration outside Downing Street just days after a powerful vigil was held to mark the captive child’s ninth birthday
- Emily Hand was snatched from her bed during the Hamas attacks on October 7
- Thomas Hand was seen speaking at a protest calling for the release of hostages
A father whose nine-year-old daughter was taken hostage during Hamas’ October 7 attacks on Israel has spoken at a demonstration outside Downing Street.
Thomas Hand was spotted talking on stage at a protest against antisemitism in London this evening to call for the release of the hostages, including his daughter Emily Hand.
He was seen speaking to the crowd with a microphone in front of a large Jewish flag – while hundreds gathered with banners and photos of those currently held captive.
His appearance tonight comes just days after powerful vigils were held for Emily in London, Dublin and New York to mark her ninth birthday.
Emily was snatched from her bed at the Kibbutz Be’eri while visiting a friend for a sleepover – with her devastated father trying everything possible to get her back since.
Thomas Hand, the father of hostage Emily Hand, was spotted speaking on stage at a protest against antisemitism outside Downing Street in London this evening
He was seen talking to the crowd with a microphone in front of a large Jewish flag
Emily Hand, nine, was snatched from her bed at the Kibbutz Be’eri while visiting a friend for a sleepover
Ballons and banners were put up during a gathering outside the office of the NGO Save The Children International, in London on November 17
Protesters wave Israeli flags and hold photos of people held hostage by Palestinian militant group Hamas in Gaza, during a demonstration outside Downing Street today
Today’s protest was against antisemitism and called for the release of the hostages
People at the protest held up signs of those kidnapped as they attended the demonstration today
Tables with pink cupcakes, party food and balloons were laid out in London and Dublin this week, while Emily’s heartbroken father was in New York – where pictures of her in happier times illuminated a Times Square billboard.
Mr Hand, 63, spoke of the pain he has felt at his little girl passing the milestone while in Hamas captivity, and said the only celebration would be when his daughter is finally brought home.
Mr Hand initially thought his daughter was among the 1,200 killed but later discovered she is in the 311-mile labyrinth of the ‘Metro Gaza’ – in conditions he compared to the Holocaust.
An emotional Mr Hand told The Sun: ‘We will only celebrate when she gets home.
‘Then we will throw a massive party with presents and balloons and a cake with all her friends invited.’
Mr Hand’s appearance tonight comes just days after powerful vigils were held for Emily in London, Dublin and New York to mark her ninth birthday
A protester shows photos of people held hostage by Palestinian militant group Hamas in Gaza
Protesters wave Israeli flags and hold photos of people held hostage by Hamas
Posters of some of the children taken by Hamas were pinned to the empty seats at the birthday celebration
People gathered for a vigil for Emily gripped onto mocked-up invites – to what should have been her ninth birthday
Emily was snatched from her bed at the Kibbutz Be’eri while visiting a friend for a sleepover when thousands of armed terrorists swarmed across the nearby Gaza border on October 7
Thomas Hand wept as he imagined the conditions his eight-year-old daughter Emily is being held in the tunnels under Gaza after being kidnapped by Hamas on October 7
Mr Hand said: ‘Before this, Emily was always smiling. Her real passion was music. She loved Beyonce and would copy her dance moves’
In a message directed towards Emily’s captors, the father said: ‘They are not soldiers. They are just children. Please let them go.’
He added: ‘Before this, Emily was always smiling. Her real passion was music. She loved Beyonce and would copy her dance moves.’
Mr Hand travelled to Israel three decades ago to volunteer on a kibbutz near the Gaza border.
He married a local woman named Narkis and the pair had two children Aiden, 29, and Natali, 26, before they split.
He then had this third child Emily with another partner who died of cancer when she was two.
The father’s kibbutz had to endure some of the worst tragedies.
Balloons and flowers were put out to mark what should have been a joyous occasion for the nine-year-old
Pictures of Emily in happier times illuminated a Times Square billboard on what is her ninth birthday
Thomas Hand, 63, looks up at a Times Square digital billboard where a poster of his daughter Emily Hand, 9, is shown on Friday, November 17
Mr Hand had rejoiced when he was initially told his daughter was among the 1,400 killed in the attack, given the horrors awaiting the 240 hostages dragged back to Gaza.
He fought back tears ahead of her ninth birthday as he admitted he still cannot imagine what she is going through, but insisted he ‘can’t let my feelings interfere with getting her back’.
‘You know, she is not going to come back, none of them are going to come back the way they went in,’ he told CNN.
‘I don’t want to think of what conditions she’s in. Could be like the cattle, train carts in the Second World War.
Her father, Thomas Hand (pictured), initially thought she was among the 1,200 killed but later discovered she is in the 311-mile labyrinth of the ‘Metro Gaza’
Hamas fighters have spent decades digging tunnels under the Gaza enclave where the hostages are thought to be held in unknown conditions
‘They were just all in a cattle car and pee and poo where you stood.’
But he promised to ‘give her the world’ in a bid to repair the damage if she returns as backchannel negotiations over the hostages’ fate take place in Qatar.
‘They are going to be mentally and physically and emotionally broken, and that’s going to take a lot of fixing.
‘I’m not going to send her to school for at least a year. We’re going to give her the world. Just happy times. And fix her.’
He said a trip to Disney World was among his plans as he campaigns to secure her release.
‘I don’t watch the news. I haven’t got time for it. It’s just full on get Emily back,’ he added.
The Irish-born father reflected on how he felt when Israeli authorities told him his ‘exceptional’ daughter was among the thousands caught up in the Hamas attack.
‘They said ”We found Emily. She’s dead”, and I just went ”Yes!’ I went ‘yes”, and I smiled, because that is the best news of the possibilities that I knew.
‘She was a little angel and she actually looked like an angel,’ Emily’s father told the Irish Times, ‘she was very, very sociable and she loved music’
Dublin-born Thomas Hand with his daughters Emily and Natali
‘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,’ he told one newspaper
The Israeli 401st Brigade Combat Team claims to have uncovered this entrance to a Hamas tunnel near the Rantisi hospital in Gaza
‘I actually keep her in a special place, and I don’t want to imagine what she’s going through,’
‘She was either dead, or in Gaza. And if you know anything about what they do to people in Gaza, that is worse than death.
‘They’d have no food. They’d have no water. She’d be in a dark room filled with Christ knows how many people, and terrified every minute, hour, day, and possible years to come.
‘So death was a blessing. An absolute blessing.’
He said he cannot cope with the realization that his little girl is being held hostage at the heart of Hamas’s underground terror network as the battle rages around her.
‘I can’t. I actually keep her in a special place, and I don’t want to imagine what she’s going through,’ he said.
‘Every day, 38 days now. I can’t think about it. It would be too painful.
‘She is down in the tunnels of Gaza with Hamas. I don’t want to think of what conditions she’s in. How she is being treated. How she is being fed. How she is — if she has been given water. Just has she got a toothbrush?’
President Joe Biden raised hopes on Tuesday that a deal could be struck between Israel and Hamas to free the hostages in exchange for a pause in the Israeli attack on Gaza which has claimed over 11,000 Palestinian lives.
And Hamas’s military wing, the Qassam Brigades, said in a statement that negotiations were focusing on the possible release of 70 women and children in exchange for a five-day pause in the fighting, as backchannel talks continue in Qatar.
But Hand said he had ‘very, very little’ information on his daughter or what chances there are for her release.
‘I know for a fact that she’s not dead,’ he said.
‘You know for a fact that she was led away by Hamas terrorists. There are eyewitness accounts of it.
‘Someone saw her being led away. Her and her friend and her friend’s mother.’
‘You know, America has a lot of influence all over the world. If he (Biden) says that, obviously, he knows more than I do, and every little bit of information gives us hope that we can get Emily and at least the children and babies out of Gaza.’
‘We have been working non-stop to put pressure on all the governments all over the world to do their best to get, particularly my little Emily, back home,’ Hand said.
‘She is an Irish citizen, so we put a lot of pressure on the Irish government.
‘We are doing everything that we possibly can to get her home, and all the hostages. At least the children.
‘They could start off with the babies and the children.
‘They’ve got babies being kidnapped over there.’
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