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26th Nov 2023

Emily Hand reunited with her father after being freed by Hamas

Simon Kelly

Emily Hand

She spent 50 days in Gaza following her kidnapping.

Irish-Israeli schoolgirl Emily Hand has reunited with her father after she was kidnapped by Hamas 50 days ago.

The nine-year-old was among 17 prisoners freed by the militant group in return for dozens of Palestinian prisoners held by Israel, under a truce deal.

“Emily has come back to us!” said her overjoyed father, Thomas Hand. “We can’t find the words to describe our emotions after 50 challenging and complicated days.”

Emily was kidnapped, along with her 13-year-old friend Hila, while at a sleepover in Kibbutz Be’eri. Hila was also released by Hamas on Saturday. Her mother, Raya Rotem, 54, is still being held in Gaza.

“We are overjoyed to embrace Emily again,” continued Mr Hand. “But at the same time, we remember Raya Rotem and all the hundreds of hostages who have yet to return.”

Emily Hand returned after 50 days in Gaza.

After Emily’s release, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has said “a nation’s prayers were answered” after the announcement came through.

“An innocent child who was lost has now been found and returned, and our country breathes a massive sigh of relief. Our prayers have been answered,” he said in a statement.

“When I met Tom and Natali in Dublin, their pain was etched on their faces, but so was their courage and determination to ensure that Emily would be freed. I shared their grief and was inspired by their example. Irish people everywhere share in the relief of Emily’s family.

“Emily now returns to her family, but we cannot forget that many more hostages remain in captivity in Gaza. Their fate is unknown, but we hope that like Emily, they will also be allowed to return to their homes and their families.

“We think of all the families suffering in this troubled region, and we redouble our efforts to work for a permanent ceasefire, and for a just a lasting peace,” the Taoiseach added.

The Tánaiste Micheál Martin also welcomed the release of Emily, saying that it was a “precious and deeply moving moment for the Hand family.”

The release of hostages comes during a four-day ceasefire between Israel and Palestine. The first break in fighting in seven weeks has seen a number of hostages freed on both sides.

Aid trucks have also been able to cross into Gaza as part of the four-day truce, helping citizens survive amidst the water, food and power shortages brought on by Israel’s siege of the area.

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