A birthday party for an Irish-Israeli girl believed to have been taken hostage by Hamas was held in London on Friday, with organisers pleading for the two sides to show mercy to children in the conflict.
Emily Hand, now aged nine, was at a sleepover at a friend’s house in Kibbutz Beeri, when she and her friend’s mother were seized on October 7, family and supporters said.
“Innocent kids abducted to Gaza are not a political issue,” Florit Shoihet, an Israeli living in Britain and an organiser of the event, told AFP.
“It’s a humanitarian issue. It’s an international issue. And we want this organisation to speak louder. We want them to act. We want them to talk. We want them not to forget our kids.”
Israeli officials say 239 people were taken hostage and some 1,200 people killed, mostly civilians. Some 40 children are believed to be among the hostages.
Hamas government officials say Israel’s bombardment and ground offensive have killed more than 11,500 people in the Gaza Strip, also mostly civilians and including thousands of children.
At the event held outside the headquarters of the Save the Children International charity, organisers set up a table with cupcakes and decorated with balloons, toy bears and flyers of those kidnapped in the raid.
An image of Hand, who holds Irish and Israeli citizenship, was handed out while an artist spraypainted an image of the young girl on a canvas, with the message “Happy Birthday Emily”.
“Today, we’re celebrating her birthday but we also want to voice the whole issue of the hostages,” Shoihet said.
Peter Walsh, from Save the Children, pleaded for Israel and Hamas to call an immediate ceasefire.
“The death of one child in a conflict is too many,” he said.
“Right now in Gaza, if we do not have a ceasefire, we’ve already seen the impact on thousands of children and there will be many more children that will be affected.”
Earlier this week Emily’s father Tom Hand and half-sister Natali met Irish prime minister Leo Varadkar in Dublin to plead for government help to find his daughter.
Hand, originally from Dublin, described his daughter as a “fun-loving child” who loves music, dancing and singing.
“I want to hug Emily again, love her, fix her,” he told Irish broadcaster RTE.
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