'Emily has come back to us': Heart-warming moment Irish-Israeli girl, 9, reunites with father after Hamas release

26 November 2023, 07:34 | Updated: 26 November 2023, 08:23

Emily Hand was reunited with her father
Emily Hand was reunited with her father. Picture: IDF/Alamy

By Emma Soteriou

Irish-Israel girl Emily Hand has been reunited with her father for the first time after being released by Hamas.

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Emily's release came just one day after her ninth birthday, with her father previously fearing his daughter was dead.

She was handed over to the Red Cross and driven to the Rafah crossing, which connects Gaza and Egypt.

A clip showed the emotional moment she was reunited with her father, with her running into his embrace after weeks apart.

The nine-year-old, who had been living in Israel prior to her captivity, was seized in kibbutz Be'eri on October 7th by Hamas as she enjoyed a sleepover with her friends.

Read more: Hamas hands over 13 more Israeli hostages and several foreign nationals after initial delay

Read more: Met police make 18 arrests at pro-Palestine march in central London - including man 'holding Nazi placard'

Following her release, Emily's family said in a statement: "Emily has come back to us. We can't find the words to describe our emotions after 50 challenging and complicated days.

"We are overjoyed to embrace Emily again, but at the same time, we remember Raya Rotem and all the hostages who have yet to return.

"We will persist in doing everything in our power to bring them back home.

"We want to express our gratitude to everyone who helped and supported us during the last 50 days until Emily's return.

"We appreciate the unwavering support as we continue our efforts for the safe return of all."

Relatives of hostages in the Gaza Strip demonstrate in Tel Aviv
Relatives of hostages in the Gaza Strip demonstrate in Tel Aviv. Picture: Getty

Around 50 hostages are expected to be released in total, with women, children, and the elderly being prioritised as part of a ceasefire deal agreed by Israel and Hamas.

There had been delays to the release of hostages On Saturday, after Hamas accused Israel of not respecting the truce.

Israel denied the claims.

Relatives of hostages in the Gaza Strip demonstrate in Tel Aviv
Relatives of hostages in the Gaza Strip demonstrate in Tel Aviv. Picture: Getty

Speaking to the Mirror before his daughter's release, Mr Hand said: "We have been waiting for far too long for this moment.

"Every day has been a long and painful living nightmare.… my Emily is coming home at last, broken but in one piece."

He said the first thing he would tell here was: "I love you, I love you, I love you."

"Emily is so wonderfully sweet and innocent – and I hope and pray that this awful experience will not have taken that away from her," he said.

"I expect she'll be very angry with me to start with because you've been thinking, 'Where is Daddy? Why has Daddy not come to save me?'

"But the great thing is she cannot blame the dog at all – and I'm absolutely sure the dog will get the cuddle first before me.

"She really is a special girl who loves everything in this world – even the big snails that crawl around our kibbutz. Emily used to put them on her arms and hands and stroke them gently.

"I'm sure we'll be able eventually to cure all the physical problems that may be inflicted on her… but the things in the mind are gonna take much more time and effort."

Which hostages have been released?

Haran/Shoham family: Shoshan Haran (67), Adi (38), Nave (8), Yahal (3)

Or family: Noam (16) and Alma (13)

Noam Or, 17 and his 13-year-old sister Alma Or
Noam Or, 17 and his 13-year-old sister Alma Or. Picture: Handout

Weiss family: Shiri (53), and Noga (18)

Avigdori family: Sharon (52) and Noam (12)

Others: Hila Rotem Shoshani (12), Maya Regev (21), and Emily Hand (9)

Hila Rotem Shoshani (right) was released by Hamas on Saturday though her mother Raya Rotem (left) is still a hostage in Gaza
Hila Rotem Shoshani (right) was released by Hamas on Saturday though her mother Raya Rotem (left) is still a hostage in Gaza. Picture: Handout

Four Thai nationals have been released too, though their names are not yet known.

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