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Gaza hostages' families detail 'nightmare' wait for news

Thomas Hand's daughter, Emily, and Orit Meir's son, Almog, are among the more than 200 hostages seized by Hamas
— London (AFP)

Relatives of some hostages held in Gaza spoke Monday of their ongoing "nightmare", and revealed they had not been given any information about a possible imminent deal for some to be released.

Speaking at the Israeli embassy in London, several relatives of those held by Hamas in the war-ravaged Palestinian territory detailed how their lives were frozen as they await news of their loved ones.

It comes as hopes build for a deal to free some of the hostages, with Qatari mediators saying Sunday talks with Hamas were progressing and held up only by "very minor" practical challenges.

"We get very, very little information... I'll believe it when I see it," Thomas Hand said of a potential agreement to release some of those seized.

His nine-year-old daughter Emily is among the more than 200 people that Israel says were taken by the Palestinian Islamist group in its October 7 attack.

"We don't know about any deal," added Iris Haim, whose 28-year-old son was kidnapped from Kfar Aza, a kibbutz bordering the Gaza Strip that was attacked.

"We don't know (anything). What you hear in the news, we don't know."

Family members of some of the hostages held a news conference in London

She noted if a deal was struck, children and women held "must come back home first", even though that would exclude her son.

"I think that is the only way, that they will free by steps, not all together. I don't believe that they will let everybody (come)."

Hopes for some hostage releases come as the war entered its seventh week after Hamas's attack, which killed 1,200 people and saw 240 taken as hostages, according to Israel.

The Israeli offensive in response has killed more than 13,000 people, including thousands of children, according to the Hamas-run government, fuelling mounting global pressure for a ceasefire.

Describing his seven-week ordeal since, Irish-born Hand, 63, said it was his and every parent's "worst nightmare".

"You don't know where she is, you don't know what suffering she's going (through)," he told reporters.

"But not only that, just the sheer terror of a nine-year-old girl down in those dark tunnels never seeing the light of day."

Hamas is believed to be holding the hostages in a network of tunnels deep beneath Gaza.

"She (Emily) must be saying every day: 'Where's my daddy? Why isn't he not coming to save me?'," Hand went on.

"That's what I'm living through... it's an absolute nightmare."

Crowds called for the release of the hostages at a demonstration in London on Sunday

Orit Meir, the mother of another hostage, 21-year-old Almog who was seized from a music festival near Gaza on October 7, also called the period since a "nightmare".

"The reality of my life: no sleeping, no eating... everything's stopped," she said tearfully.