The father of nine-year-old Emily Hand, the Irish-Israeli girl held hostage by Hamas for 50 days, said she was threatened with a knife during her ordeal.
Thomas Hand, who is originally from Dublin, said Emily talks “very little” about her time in captivity.
“Just every now and then, [she gives] little snippets of information. But we’re not actually even allowed to question her in any way, from the psychiatrists’ point of view. They said, ‘No, whatever she wants to say voluntarily, let it come out’.
“She told me that they were threatened with a knife to be quiet.
“That’s an awful vision in your head as a parent, that she lived through that terror.”
But Mr Hand wants to return to their home in Be’eri, where the Hamas attack took place on 7 October.
“We all want to go back home. The houses are wrecked, destroyed. The blood of our friends on the roads, in the paths, in the grass, in the earth itself. But yeah, we still want to go back. We have to go back. If we don’t go back, they’ve won.”
But Emily is less keen, saying: “On the one hand, it’s really, really close to the box” – the term the nine-year-old uses to refer to Gaza.
“On the other hand, all the friends are there. So I don’t know,” she said.
Mr Hand said his dream for Emily is that she “completely recovers”.
“No more panic attacks. No more whispering. To feel secure – mentally, emotionally. I hope she has a healthy, happy, normal life like any parent wants for their kids,” he said.
But he has called for a “reasonable” deal to be made with Hamas to secure the release of the other hostages.
“If you ask me as a parent, as a friend of people who are captured, you have to say, do the deal. Give them whatever they want to get everyone back.
“If you ask me as someone in power making that deal, you have to make a reasonable deal. You can’t go in letting them think that they can ask for anything.
“You get the reports out of what the hostages do go through, and that just increases your pain, your nightmare. I was very lucky that I got my little girl back. You have to hope and pray for every other hostage still held there.”
The day after the interview, the family was set to celebrate the birthday of Mr Hand’s first wife Narkis who was shot dead by Hamas in Be’eri on 7 October.
Narkis was the mother of Mr Hand’s two adult children and also helped to raise Emily after her mother died of cancer when she was a toddler.
“She would have been 55. She’s not even buried in a permanent place yet.
“Narkis was truly her second mother. And Emily loved Narkis like a mother. So it’s going to be a tough day tomorrow but we have to honour her.”
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