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Previously presumed dead and now alive in Gaza: hostage’s father clings to hope of reuniting with daughter

Tom Hand went from being “relieved” at imagining his daughter Emily had died quickly after she went missing during the Oct. 7 attack by Hamas gunmen in southern Israel to harrowing thoughts about her spending her ninth birthday as a hostage in a tunnel in Gaza.

Emily was sleeping at a friend’s house in Be’eri, one of the kibbutzim around the Gaza Strip that were targeted by Hamas in an attack that began early in the morning and ended hours later, with 1,200 people killed and around 240 injured. hostages, according to Israel’s count — on the deadliest day in its 75-year history.

“Unofficial information came in that she was found dead on the kibbutz,” said Hand, who now lives in a Dead Sea hotel with others evacuated from Be’eri. “I was relieved. I was relieved that she was dead and it was all over, it would have been really quick.”

More than 100 people were killed in Be’eri in more than 24 hours. Many were shot with their families or found dead with their hands tied. Rescuers said some were burned alive. Hand was at home, and the armed men never arrived at his house.

“You try to imagine the best, you know. You hope it was quick,” Hand said. “Crazy thought for a father to say, but yeah, it was a relief to think she wasn’t in Gaza.”

A 64-year-old Irish immigrant who came to Be’eri in 1992 as a 32-year-old volunteer, Hand worked as a printer on the kibbutz, where he met Emily’s mother, Liat.

Liat died when Emily was just 2½ years old, but the family remained on the kibbutz where Hand’s first wife, Narkis, also lived. She was killed on October 7th.

For weeks, Hand believed that Emily had also died in the attack, before being informed by the Army that her body had not been found. Then he learned that she had been kidnapped and likely held in a network of tunnels built by Hamas.

“So now I know she is in Gaza and she is alive. She will complete 9 years in the tunnels,” he said. “She won’t even know it’s her birthday. She will have no idea of ​​night, day or hour.”

“There will be no birthday party, no birthday cake, no friends around. But you know, yes. Now we hope, now we pray.”

Since the October 7 attack, Israel has attacked the Gaza Strip in a bombing campaign, which Gaza authorities say has killed more than 11,000 people, and a ground operation to destroy Hamas. The government and military forces have promised to bring back as many hostages as possible.

Now that Hand discovered Emily was alive, he said he was forced into a complete mental shift to think, “OK, let’s get her back, let’s get her back. Get them all back.”

“I’ll make sure to take you to the next Beyoncé concert. Taking her to Disney World, I’m going to spend all my money, every penny I have to give her fun to make up for everything she’s lost and everything she’s going through,” he said, fighting back tears. “I’m going to give her the world.”

Source: CNN Brasil

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