The father of a nine-year-old Irish-Israeli child who was taken hostage during the Hamas assault on Israel has said he will believe a deal to release hostages is in place “when I see it”.

Thomas Hand initially thought his daughter Emily, who had been attending a sleepover at a friend’s house, had been killed on October 7, but was later told she had been kidnapped from Kibbutz Be’eri and taken to Gaza.

Mr Hand said at a press conference at the Israeli embassy in London on Monday morning that he was living through a “nightmare” and getting Emily back was his “reason for living”.

Mr Hand, who cried as he spoke of his missing daughter, said: “I pray I get Emily back.

“I don’t know what condition she’s going to be in, but she’s going to be very broken mentally and physically and we’ll have to fix that.

“It’s going to take a long time to fix that.

“That’s what we’ve got to do and we will do it no matter how long it takes.

“That’s my prime focus, my reason for living and getting up in the morning every day.”

He added that he was horrified by the thought of “the sheer terror of a nine-year-old girl down in those dark tunnels never seeing the light of day”.

“She must be saying every day: ‘Where’s my daddy, why didn’t he come to save me?'”

Israel-Hamas conflict
Thomas Hand, the father of nine-year-old Irish-Israeli child Emily Hand, and Orit Meir, the mother of Almog Meir (Victoria Jones/PA)

Mr Hand, who was wearing a T-shirt with a “Bring them home now” message on it, said that the taking of hostages was “pure terrorism, pure evil”.

In regard to media reports which have suggested a deal to release hostages was edging closer, Mr Hand said: “I’ll believe it when I see it”.

Mr Hand, originally from Dun Laoghaire in Dublin, said that getting “proof of life” was the “most crucial thing that will keep them (hostages) alive for us now”.

He said: “Hamas in their psychological warfare tactics are not allowing the Red Cross to get any proof of life”, adding that this was “carrying on our pain and torment”.

Mr Hand said Emily was “a bubbly little innocent child”, adding she played the piano and guitar and that “music was her passion”.

The Israeli embassy said it believed 240 hostages are being held in Gaza, including at least 30 children.

Iris Haim, another speaker at the press conference, said her son, Yotam, had been kidnapped from Kfar Aza on October 7 as he prepared to play at a festival in Tel Aviv.

Iris Haim, the mother of Israeli hostage Yotam Haim currently being held in Gaza, wipes her eye during a press conference at the Israel embassy in London
Iris Haim, the mother of Israeli hostage Yotam Haim currently being held in Gaza, during a press conference at the Israeli embassy in London (Victoria Jones/PA)

Ms Haim, originally from Haifa, said her 28-year-old son found himself “in a hell of guns, shooting and firing” during the Hamas attack on Israel.

She added that she was “really worried” about Yotam, a drummer for heavy metal band Persephore, as he has a medical condition that requires monthly medication.

“We are really worried and as a mother I cannot explain what I feel – my son is not with me. He didn’t go on a trip to London – he’s captured somewhere.”

Ms Haim said she thought hostages would be “freed by steps” and understood her son was unlikely to be one of the first to be released, but added: “I have a strong belief that he will come back anyway.”