Emily Hand turned nine on Friday. Like many little girls the world over, she loves to sing and to dance like Beyonce.
But unlike those other girls, Emily ‘spent her birthday in the Gaza tunnels’, one of the scores of hostages snatched by Hamas during its deadly October 7 attack on Israel, according to her father Thomas Hand.
‘She wouldn’t even know it was her birthday. She doesn’t know what day it is, and what date it is,’ Irish-born Hand told AFP news agency Sunday, making a heart-rending appeal to the UK to bring Emily home.
Based on initial information, the 63-year-old thought his daughter was dead.
‘But that was mistaken identity,’ he said on the sidelines of a protest for the release of the more than 200 people being held by the Palestinian Islamist group.
The DNA tests didn’t match, he added.
Watch Mr Hand speak outside Downing Street on Sunday:
‘Later on we had an eyewitness… (who) saw her being led away by the terrorists, into a van off to Gaza’ after the attack on the Beeri kibbutz, Mr Hand said.
For the father, who moved to Israel at the age of 32, Beeri had been idyllic. ‘Seriously it was paradise on earth… until it all came crushing down’ on that ‘terrifying day’.
The Beeri kibbutz saw some of the worst atrocities when Gaza-based Hamas militants stormed across the militarised border, killing around 1,200 people and taking about 240 hostages, according to Israeli officials.