Irish-Israeli girl feared dead 'may be hostage'

An Irishman who was told his eight-year-old daughter had been killed by Hamas in Israel has now been told that she may still be alive.

Dublin-born Tom Hand was initially informed that Emily Hand was among a group of people killed in an attack on a kibbutz on 7 October.

The Irish embassy in Israel confirmed to Irish broadcaster RTÉ that Emily was now believed to have been abducted rather than killed.

An official from the embassy said tests had shown her DNA was not found among victims in Kibbutz Be'eri.

Speaking to RTÉ on Sunday, Emily's family said the Israeli Defense Forces now believed there was a "high possibility" she was among the people being held hostage by Hamas in Gaza.

Emily was in Kibbutz Be'eri, about three miles from Gaza, when Hamas launched its attack.

More than 100 people were killed in the kibbutz.

They were among more than 1,400 Israelis killed by Hamas in attacks across southern Israel.

Dozens of other people from the kibbutz are still missing and it is believed some of them may have been taken to Gaza as hostages.

At the last count, the Israeli Defense Forces said 242 people were being held hostage by Hamas.

Days after the attack, Tom Hand gave an emotional interview to the US broadcaster CNN.

He said Emily had gone to stay at her friend's house in the kibbutz on 7 October and two days later the Israeli authorities told him they believed she was dead.

'We love you so much'

Emily's half-sister Natalie Hand has told an Israeli TV channel that the family was informed on 31 October that she might be among the hostages.

"We were told that she had been murdered. We were in mourning," Natalie Hand said, according to a report in the Times of Israel.

In a direct message to her missing sister, Ms Hand added: "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."

Ms Hand told the channel that Emily also had Irish citizenship.

The Irish Department of Foreign Affairs said it was "aware of the case of Emily Hand and is providing consular assistance to her family".

"We will not be commenting further at this time," it added.

Since the Hamas attacks of 7 October, Israel has been carrying out military action in Gaza.

The Hamas-run health ministry says more than 9,700 people have been killed.