Emily turned nine on Friday "in the tunnels of Gaza" says his father, Thomas Handlaunching a heartbreaking appeal from London for her to return home, as all Hamas hostages.
The 63-year-old man initially thought he had died. "It was due to mistaken identity," he told AFP, in the British capital, during a demonstration on Sunday to call for the release of the 240 people heldaccording to the Israeli authorities, by the Palestinian Islamist movement.
But DNA tests of the person believed to be Emily, did not correspond to the girl. "Then we had a visual witness, who saw how the terrorists took her in a van to Gaza" after the attack on Kibbutz Beeri, his father continues.
To that place, in Israel, this man born from Ireland He moved when he was 32 years old. And he describes it as idyllic.
"Seriously, it was paradise on earth. I'm lucky to have enjoyed paradise for 30 years, until it was swept away" on that "terrifying day."
That unprecedented attack by Hamas left 1,200 dead, mostly civilians, on October 7, according to Israeli authorities. Since then, retaliatory bombings in the Gaza Strip have left 13,000 dead, according to Palestinian sources, including more than 5,500 children and 3,500 women.
Now "We have no idea what the future will be like"laments Thomas Hand. "We are refugees in our own country," "I live in a hotel with the rest of my kibbutz." No one knows, he says, "if we will ever return to Kibbutz Beeri," "if we will be safe enough."
His face in Times Square
"I must continue moving forward until it is returned to me, it is my only goal in life," explains Thomas Hand, who met with the Irish Prime Minister, Leo Varadkar, and wants to "keep up the pressure on the governments."
On October 7, Her daughter had just spent the night at a friend's house.. "I had only done that twice," since normally she is the one who receives it because there is "a lot of room" at her father's house, widowed since Emily's mother died due to cancer, when the girl was two and a half years old.
On Friday, Emily's ninth birthday It was marked by several demonstrations calling for the release of the hostages, as occurred in London.
In New York, the girl's face was displayed in Times Square. "He spent his birthday in the Gaza tunnels," says his father, from a platform in London, to the hundreds of people who regularly shout "bring them home."
"He's only nine years old, his place is to be at home with us," "in his room," "in his bed," he says with gestures of anguish.
"Emily and all the hostages deserve to come home to the arms of their families." In front of a crowd frozen by the cold and emotion, his father shouts: "help me come home!"
"The truth is that I don't know how long I can last without it. I have lost twelve kilos," he explains.
"We are all living a nightmare. It will take generations to recover," concludes between tears. The crowd, turning on the flashlights of their cell phones, sings: "Happy Birthday".