‘Emily is broken… but we’re overjoyed she’s free’, says Dad of 9 year old taken by Hamas | World | News

November 27, 2023

The moment 9 year old Emily Hand was reunited with her dad after being held captive by Hamas (Image: Getty)

A nine-year-old Irish-Israeli girl held hostage by Hamas is reunited with her loving father yesterday after a harrowing ordeal.

Newly freed Emily Hand was pictured rushing into the arms of her father Thomas, 63.

Video footage released by the Israeli Defence Forces showed the youngster – who spent her ninth birthday in captivity – running to her father and embracing at a location in Israel.

Emily was abducted while attending a sleepover in Kibbutz Be’eri during the Hamas attack on October 7, along with her friend Hila, 13, who has also been released. But Hila’s mother, Raya Rotem, 54, is still being held in Gaza.

Thomas Hand, originally from Dun Laoghaire in Dublin, thanked all those who have supported his family through the horrific ordeal.

He said his young daughter was “broken” by her ordeal but he also thanked everyone who “helped and hugged us” while Emily was held.

Mr Hand had originally believed his daughter had been killed, before learning she was still alive.

Yesterday, he said: “Emily has come back to us. We are overjoyed to embrace Emily again. We appreciate the unwavering support. We want to express our gratitude to everyone who helped and supported us during the last 50 days until Emily’s return.”

Mr Hand said the family could not “find the words to describe our emotions after 50 challenging and complicated days”.

Emily was snatched in her pyjamas on October 7, during attacks in which some 240 captives were taken to Gaza.

Her overjoyed dad yesterday said he would be throwing a belated “biggest party ever” for his daughter’s ninth birthday.

However, he was also determined to keep doing everything he could to help bring those still being held hostage home.

He added: “We are happy to hug Emily again. But, at the same time, we remember Raya Rotem and all of the hostages who have yet to come back. We will continue to do everything in our power to bring them back home.”

Mr Hand said he was also planning to reunite Emily with her dog after he rescued Johnsie from the same Kibbutz his child was kidnapped from.

In total, Saturday’s exchange saw 13 Israelis, including Emily, released in Gaza in exchange for 39 more Palestinian prisoners released by Israel in the West Bank.

Also among the Israeli hostages was American four-year-old Abigail Mor Edan, who lost both her parents in the October 7 attacks.

US President Joe Biden last night revealed that young Abigail had been released. Mr Biden said he just wanted to put his arms around her.

Hamas also set free an additional four Thai hostages. A similar exchange had taken place on Friday.

Under the ongoing deal, set to end today, a total of 50 Israeli hostages – all women and children – are set to be freed by Hamas over the four days, in exchange for a total of 150 Palestinian prisoners.

Raya Rotem, left, is still currently being held hostage by Hamas (Image: PA)

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Saturday’s handover also freed Shiri and Noga Weiss, along with two teenage members of the Or family, and two members of the Avigdori family aged 52 and 12.

Others safely home with their families yesterday also included Yahal Shoham, three, and brother Nave Shoham, eight, released with their mother Adi Shoham, 38, and grandmother Dr Shoshan Haran, 67.

But Dr Haran’s husband, Avshalom, an economist and dual German-Israeli citizen, was killed in the Hamas attack.

Family members of those released told how their relatives ate rice and pita and slept on plastic seats after being abducted by Hamas.

The third group of hostages seized by Hamas were handed over to the Red Cross before crossing the border from Gaza into Egypt then handed over to the Israeli military.

Mr Biden stressed: “We will not stop working until every hostage is returned.”

Meanwhile, Thailand’s Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin said that the four Thai nationals released on Saturday – after a further 11 and a Filipino were set free on Friday – were doing well.

He said: “Everybody is safe, on the whole in good mental health, and are able to speak normally.”

The Israeli government has said the truce – set to end at midnight tonight – could be extended if at least 10 Israelis are released daily.

Gazans have been using the pause in fighting to get desperately needed supplies of fuel, food and medicine.

Palestinians were also seen being reunited with loved ones, with prisoner Israa Jaabis welcomed by her family after being freed.

But Jerusalem has also vowed to continue its bid to wipe out Hamas from top to bottom and has made clear the ceasefire deal is only temporary.

Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu was yesterday in the Gaza Strip, where he spoke with soldiers and visited one of the tunnels that has been uncovered.

Mr Netanyahu said: “We are here in Gaza with our heroic fighters. We make every effort to return our abductees, and eventually we will return them all.

“We have three goals for this war: eliminate Hamas, return all our abductees and ensure that Gaza does not become a threat to the State of Israel again.”

Even if all of the planned 50 Israeli hostages are set free under the deal, nearly 200 will still remain held by Hamas.

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