The Guardian

‘My sole purpose now is to get my little daughter back’ Father pleads for return of nine-year-old

Geneva Abdul

abducted by Hamas has again pleaded for her return amid growing hopes of a deal between Israel and the Islamist group for a significant number of hostages to be released.

“That’d be very great for everyone concerned on both sides,” said Thomas Hand, 63, originally from Dublin, whose daughter Emily was taken from the Be’eri kibbutz on 7 October. “It gives me hope, but until I see her, until I’m holding her, I won’t believe anything.”

Hand was among a group of parents of young hostages held by Hamas who yesterday pleaded for their return at a press conference at the Israeli embassy in London.

“I know the Israeli government and the army will do everything in their capabilities to get them back,” said Hand, whose daughter was initially believed to be among the 1,200 Israelis killed during the 7 October attack by Hamas in southern Israel. She is now counted among the 240 hostages who were taken to Gaza.

Hand said the day of Emily’s ninth birthday, 17 November, which he spent in Times Square surrounded by billboards with her image, was one of his darkest since the attack.

“My sole purpose in life now is to do everything I can to get my little daughter Emily back,” said Hand, who after living in Be’eri for 20 years working in a printing house, now lives in a hotel.

The families reiterated calls for the Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, to bring the hostages home. Negotiations for their release are under way, possibly in return for a limited ceasefire and the release of Palestinians from Israeli jails.

Hamas has released four hostages, and has said as many as 30 – many of whom are foreign nationals – have been killed by the Israeli bombing of Gaza.

On Sunday, Israel accused Hamas of executing a captive soldier and holding two foreign hostages at al-Shifa hospital, where last week the military said it recovered the body of 65-year-old Yehudit Weiss, who was taken from the Be’eri kibbutz by Hamas.

Iris Haim, the mother of Yotam Haim, 28, who was abducted from Kfar Aza kibbutz, said: “We hope that they will come back.” Sitting in front of a table displaying photographs of some of the hostages, including a nine-monthold baby and other young children, Haim added: “I trust Israel, I trust the [Israel Defense Forces] with all my heart, but we need the support of the world.” among Israeli policymakers and the security establishment, and society more broadly. Senior military officers say the two objectives can be reconciled as military pressure on Hamas would lead to concessions over hostages. It is not clear that all Israeli cabinet ministers agree.

Israeli media have reported divisions among senior ministers, with some favouring accepting the deal reportedly tabled by Qatar before international pressure or rising military casualties weaken Israel’s bargaining position. Others argue that Israel should hold out for better terms and that to accept those on offer would set a precedent for future negotiations to obtain the freedom of any remaining hostages.

The White House deputy national security adviser, Jon Finer, said on Sunday that any deal to free “considerably more than 12” hostages would be likely to include an extended pause in the fighting and allow for the distribution of humanitarian assistance in Gaza.

A staged release would be the first de-escalatory step since Hamas launched an assault on Israel on 7 October. So far, only four hostages have been released. It is thought 239 people from 26 different countries are still being held.

Ben-Gvir’s proposal on capital punishment has moved slowly in parliament. The conservative Likud party of Netanyahu, which depends on support from far-right parties, has shown little interest in advancing it.

Israel’s justice ministry said this month that officials were considering different procedures for putting suspected militants on trial and securing “punishments befitting the severity of the horrors committed”.

The death penalty remains on Israel’s law books but the only ever court-ordered execution in Israel was that, in 1962, of Adolf Eichmann, a convicted Nazi war criminal who played a central role in the administration of the Holocaust.

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