Emily Hand, an Irish-Israeli girl who was believed to have been murdered during the Hamas attacks in southern Israel on October 7, is now thought to be alive and among those held hostage in Gaza.
Hand, 8, was staying at a friend's house in the Be'eri Kibbutz near the border with Gaza when Hamas launched the attacks and was believed to have been among the dead.
However, Emily's family, including her Irish father Thomas Hand, was informed by Israeli authorities several days ago that her remains were not found among the dead at the kibbutz.
Emily's half-sister Natalie has appeared on Israeli television with a message for her younger sister, stating that the family is doing everything they can to bring her home.
"I want to tell you that we are doing everything to get you home. We know you are being held hostage. We love you so much and miss you," Natalie said on Israeli station Channel 12.
Natalie added that the Irish authorities have promised to do whatever they can to help.
In a statement on X, formerly known as Twitter, Ireland's Department of Foreign Affairs said it is "aware of the case of Emily Hand and is providing consular assistance to her family."
The Department of Foreign Affairs is aware of the case of Emily Hand and is providing consular assistance to her family. We will not be commenting further at this time.— Irish Foreign Ministry (@dfatirl) November 5, 2023
Emily's father Thomas, who is from Dún Laoghaire in Dublin, was initially informed that his daughter had died in the Hamas attacks on October 7.
He gave an emotional interview with CNN shortly afterward, stating that he was relieved that she had been killed as he thought it would be much worse if she was kidnapped.
"They just said 'We found Emily. She's dead," Thomas Hand told CNN on October 12.
"And I went, 'yes!' I went 'yes!' and smiled because that is the best news of the possibilities that I knew.
"That was the best possibility that I was hoping for. 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, that is worse than death."
In a heart-wrenching interview on @CNNsitRoom, CNN reporter Clarissa Ward speaks with @WolfBlitzer about a grieving father who finally received confirmation of his daughter's tragic death during the Hamas attack. Watch: pic.twitter.com/F9Yh3lW5KI— CNN (@CNN) October 12, 2023
However, Israeli authorities have carried out DNA tests on the bodies found at the Be'eri Kibbutz and informed Emily's family that there is a "high chance" that she is still alive.
Israeli authorities now believe that Emily is being held captive in Gaza along with the friend she was staying with when the attacks began and her friend's mother.
Natalie's boyfriend Natty Virado, 28, told the Irish Times that the situation was a "nightmare" brought to life.
"This story just keeps piling up. This nightmare is coming to life. Thomas is holding up: We’re all holding up. Everyone in the family is dealing with their own grief and doing their best," he told the Irish Times.
Viraldo additionally called on the Irish Government to do everything they can to help.
Ireland's Minister for Justice Helen McEntee said the Irish Government is doing "everything it can" to support Emily's family.
"This is a hugely traumatic situation for her family and for every family who finds themselves with their loved one held hostage," McEntee told RTÉ's Morning Ireland on Monday.
"We are doing everything that we can to support this family and others to make sure that people can be returned home safely to their families.
"We have called from the very beginning for Hamas to release any hostages that they might have and of course where Irish citizens are involved here, every effort is being made to support them.
"But you'll appreciate that it's a hugely sensitive time at the moment so I don't want to say too much, but what I can say is that we're doing everything that we can to support any family who is involved in this absolutely appalling situation."
She also noted that there has been a delay in getting Irish citizens out of Gaza after the Department of Foreign Affairs confirmed on Friday that Irish citizens were not included on a list of foreign nationals permitted to leave Gaza via the Rafah Crossing.
"There has unfortunately been a delay in citizens being released … there's no list, and we don't have any further information as to what number we might be on a list or where Irish citizens might be on that list," McEntee said.
Minister for Justice Helen McEntee said the Government are doing 'everything that we [they] can' to secure the release of eight-year-old Irish-Israeli Emily Hand, believed to have been abducted by Hamas | Read more: https://t.co/PIYPaVmueu pic.twitter.com/eakXYqE8KN— RTÉ News (@rtenews) November 6, 2023