Thomas Hand, an Irish man living in Israel, says his daughter Emily's death during the Hamas attacks in their neighborhood on Saturday, October 7 was better than her being taken hostage in Gaza.
Hand told CNN that he came to Be’eri 30 years ago as a volunteer, planning to stay a few months, and never left. After his wife, Emily’s mother, died of cancer a few years ago, he and Emily, whom he lovingly described as a talented dancer and singer and a fun, bright girl, have lived there on their own.
On Friday night, Emily went to a friend's house for a sleepover, something she didn't do too often, Hand noted. Emily was still at the neighbor's house when Hamas launched their surprise attack on Saturday morning.
When alarms went off on Saturday morning, Hand was not initially concerned as the alarms are not uncommon in the kibbutz (neighborhood).
“Until I heard the shots," he told CNN.
"And it was already too late. If I had known … I could have maybe ran, got her, got her friend, got the mother, brought them back to my place.
"But by the time I realized what was happening, it was already too late."
Hand told CNN he was pinned down for 12 hours, unable to reach Emily, as Hamas went door to door executing his neighbors on Saturday.
“I had to think of Emily," he said. "She already lost her mother, I couldn’t risk her losing her father too."
He recalled: "I'm thinking, the army are going to be here soon, so just hold on a bit longer. And longer. And longer."
According to CNN on Thursday, the bodies of more than 100 residents were recovered, but there are still more residents missing.
Hand said it was two days before he was told "softly, but quickly" about Emily's death.
"They just said 'We found Emily. She's dead,'" he said.
"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.
"The way they treat you. 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 acknowledged: “In this crazy world, here is me hoping my daughter is dead."
Hand is now staying at a hotel where many of Emily's friends are also staying.
“Emily’s friends know that she’s not here with me. So they ask me what happened to her … they look up at me, and I say I don’t know yet,” he said.
“But then they see their parents hugging me, crying … kids are not stupid, even at that age, so just by seeing that I’m sure they realize.”
You can watch Thomas Hand's heartwrenching interview with CNN here:
CNN shared Hand's story the day after it was confirmed that Irish-Israeli woman Kim Damti, 22, had been confirmed dead in the Hamas attacks. Damti, whose mother is from Co Laois and had visited Ireland as recently as this past summer, was at a music festival on Saturday where militants launched their attack, killing at least 260 people.