Irish-Israeli Hostage Emily Hand, 9, Is Reunited With Her Father After Release

Irish-Israeli Hostage Emily Hand, 9, Is Reunited With Her Father After Release

Schoolgirl Emily Hand was among the group of hostages—comprised of 13 Israelis and four Thai nationals—to be released by Hamas on the second day of the Gaza ceasefire. As per the deals of the truce between Israel and Hamas, the hostages were released in exchange for 39 Palestinian prisoners. The swap took place later than expected on Saturday night, following a dispute between the warring parties as to whether Israel was upholding its aid commitments.

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Video footage shared by Irish broadcaster RTÉ News shows Emily running to greet her father Tom, with the pair sharing a hug upon their much-anticipated reunion. The nine-year-old spent her birthday (Nov. 17) in captivity, having experienced a total of 50 days with Hamas.  

In a statement released to press, Emily’s dad, Dublin-born Tom, said: “Emily has come back to us. We can’t find the words to describe our emotions after 50 challenging and complicated days.”

He added: “We are overjoyed to embrace Emily again, but at the same time, we remember all the hostages who have yet to return. We will persist in doing everything in our power to bring them back home.”

Emily, who was still a toddler when her mother died of breast cancer, lives with her father in the Kibbutz Be’eri. She had been sleeping over at a friend’s house when Hamas militants broke into the home on Oct. 7. Tom was initially told that his daughter was among the dead. In an interview with CNN’s Clarissa Ward, he had said Emily’s (then-reported) death was “the best news of the possibilities” he knew, citing his concern over what would have happened to her, had she been taken to Gaza. Tom later discovered that his daughter was alive, after all, and was among those captured by Hamas.

In a press conference on Monday, Nov. 20, held at the Israeli embassy in Kensington, London, Tom pleaded for his daughter’s release. “The sheer terror of a nine-year-old girl [in a tunnel] never seeing the light of day,” he remarked. “She must be saying everyday: ‘Where is daddy? Why has he not come to save me?’” Tom added that helping his daughter recover from the ordeal would be his “prime reason for getting up.”

Following news of Emily’s release, Ireland’s Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs, Micheál Martin, shared a statement via social media. “The people of Ireland have been touched by Emily’s story, her innocence, and the quiet determination of her father, Tom,” he wrote. Martin praised those who had helped facilitate the release, but added a reiteration of his “call that all hostages in Gaza should be released immediately and unconditionally.”

Leo Varadkar, Ireland’s Taoiseach [Prime Minister], also commented on Emily’s homecoming. “This is a day of enormous joy and relief for Emily Hand and her family,” he wrote in a post shared on X (formerly Twitter). “An innocent child who was lost has now been found and returned, and we breathe a massive sigh of relief. Our prayers have been answered.”

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