Israel-Hamas war: Family hoping Emily Hand on list of Gaza hostages set to be freed from Friday

Emily Hand’s family do not know if Israeli-Irish national (9) will be among initial group of hostages who are due for release

Hamas will release dozens of hostages being held in the Gaza Strip in exchange for Palestinians in Israeli prisons. The family of Israeli-Irish national Emily Hand (9), including her father Tom Hand (pictured), have been waiting anxiously to find out if she will be among those released. Photograph: Neil Hall

The family of Israeli-Irish national Emily Hand were waiting anxiously on Wednesday night along with relatives of other children held hostage in Gaza to find out if she will be released.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar told Newstalk Radio on Thursday morning that he did not know yet if she would be freed, but said she was “certainly on the priority list”.

Emily, who turned nine last week, was seized from kibbutz Be’eri on October 7th when 3,000 gunmen from Gaza crossed the border into southern Israel, killing 1,200 people, according to Israeli authorities, and taking almost 240 into captivity.

Under an agreement endorsed by the Israeli cabinet in the early hours of Wednesday, a four-day ceasefire will go into effect on Friday.


Late on Wednesday night, Israel’s national security adviser said the initial release of hostages under the temporary truce agreement with Gaza’s Hamas rulers will not happen before Friday. It had previously been expected to take place on Thursday.

Emily Hand. Photograph: CNN

Varadkar hopeful that Hamas hostage Emily Hand (9) will be released soonOpens in new window ]

‘Significant development’: The Israel-Hamas hostage deal explainedOpens in new window ]

Under an agreement endorsed by the Israeli cabinet in the early hours of Wednesday, a four-day ceasefire will go into effect on Thursday morning. During this period, Hamas, the militant organisation that governs Gaza, was set to release 30 children, eight mothers and 12 other women, likely to be elderly. All are Israelis, although some hold dual nationality.

The first release of about 12 hostages had been due to take place on Thursday morning. Israel received a list of the names on Wednesday night but will not inform their families until those released have been positively identified on the Israeli side of the border.

The released hostages are set to undergo an initial medical examination by army doctors on the Israeli side of the border before being taken to a hospital to meet their families.

According to the Hamas-controlled health ministry, more than 14,000 people have been killed in Gaza since Israel launched air strikes in response to the October 7th attack before entering the strip to engage in fighting on the ground.

It is understood the four-day pause in fighting might be extended if Hamas frees additional hostages – possibly by one more day for each additional 10 hostages freed.

Israel’s supreme court on Wednesday rejected a petition against the release of Palestinian prisoners as part of the deal with Hamas. A list of 300 Palestinian prisoners was published, out of whom 150 will be selected for release as part of the deal – most of them from the West Bank or East Jerusalem.

The list includes 30 female security prisoners and 120 minors aged under 18, the youngest of whom are 14. Roughly 50 of the prisoners are affiliated with Hamas. None of the people on the list were convicted of murder, but 18 were incarcerated for attempted murder and for attacks in which Israeli civilians were wounded.

Thirty-five ministers voted in favour of the deal at Tuesday night’s cabinet meeting, which continued into Wednesday. Three members of the far-right Otzma Yehudit (Jewish Strength) party voted against. Ministers of the other far-right party, the Religious Zionist party, voted in favour, after receiving assurances that the fighting will resume immediately after the ceasefire.

Palestinians bury the bodies of 111 people killed in Israeli strikes on Gaza, in a mass grave at the Khan Younis cemetery in the southern Gaza Strip on Wednesday. Photograph: Mohammed Saber/EPA-EFE

Nahum Barnea, a veteran commentator for Israel’s biggest selling daily newspaper, Yediot Aharonot, said despite the misgivings, Israel had to accept the agreement with Hamas.

“This isn’t a deal. A deal is a dirty word when talking about a terrorist organisation. This is blackmail, coercion,” he wrote. “But in the situation that has developed, Israel has no choice but to pay the price. The alternative of forsaking the hostages a second time, after they were first forsaken on October 7th, would have been far worse and far more dangerous.

“Beyond the price it could end up costing in blood and lives, it would have left an indelible stain on the Israeli government and the [Israel Defence Forces].”

Seven Palestinians were killed on Wednesday by Israeli forces in the West Bank, six by a drone attack in the Tulkarem refugee camp, according to Palestinian sources. – Additional reporting Reuters

Mark Weiss

Mark Weiss

Mark Weiss is a contributor to The Irish Times based in Jerusalem