Emily Hand's dad vows to throw biggest party ever for missed birthdayNovember 26, 2023
‘She is broken but in one piece’: Irish girl Emily Hand reunited with her family after 50 days of hostage hell – as father vows to throw ‘biggest party ever’ to mark the ninth birthday she never had as Hamas prisoner
- Emily was snatched in her pyjamas during Hamas’ invasion of Israel
- Her father said the brave girl would be greeted by her beloved dog, Johnsie
- READ MORE: Meet the 13 people whose 50-day captivity hell is finally over
Nine-year-old Irish girl Emily Hand has been reunited with her devoted father, who has vowed to mark her latest birthday with the ‘biggest party ever’.
Emily was snatched in her pyjamas during Hamas’ invasion of Israel on October 7, in which some 240 captives were taken back into Gaza.
She had her ninth birthday while in captivity.
Her father Thomas Hand, 63, who at one point thought his little girl was dead, told The Mirror of his nerve-shredding wait to hug Emily again and said he would tell her: ‘I love you, I love you, I love you.’
The longing parent said the brave girl would be greeted by her beloved dog, Johnsie, and cuddly toys – and would enjoy ‘the best birthday party she never had’.
Nine-year-old Irish girl Emily Hand has been reunited with her devoted father, who has vowed to mark her latest birthday with the ‘biggest party ever
Emily was snatched in her pyjamas during Hamas’ invasion of Israel on October 7, in which some 240 captives were taken back into Gaza. She had her ninth birthday while in captivity
He told the publication: ‘Emily is so wonderfully sweet and innocent – and I hope and pray that this awful experience will not have taken that away from her.
‘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.’
Emily was held hostage by Hamas for 50 days. She was one of 13 Israeli hostages and seven other nationalities freed by the terrorists on Saturday after initially refusing to let them go.
The little girl’s father explained her dog is going to be an important part of her recovery and even told the military that Johnsie was a requirement.
He said: ‘The dog is so loving and so calm usually… he’s just the calming influence Emily will need for the next few weeks.’
Emily was one of 13 Israeli citizens to be freed tonight from terror group Hamas and had her ninth birthday while in captivity
‘I absolutely insisted that the dog must come with me and, to my surprise, the Israeli army has agreed,’ he added.
Thomas has been Emily’s sole parent after her mother died from cancer when she was just two years old.
Now the father is desperate to give the youngster a party she will never forget.
He said: ‘She turned nine on November 17, more than a month after she was taken from me.
‘I am sure she had no idea it was her birthday – she would have lost track of time and dates there.
‘I still have the party balloons – this one is floating in my hotel room, but it’s lost a lot of air, it’s going flat. We’ll get hundreds and hundreds now and make a great party.’
Dubliner Thomas travelled to Israel three decades ago to volunteer on a kibbutz near the Gaza border
On Saturday night hostages were handed to the Red Cross in exchange for 39 Palestinians. Among the hostages released from both sides were 41 children and 11 women.
Tonight, as Emily was released, her overjoyed family said: ‘Emily has come back to us. We can’t find the words to describe our emotions after 50 challenging and complicated days.
An International Red Cross vehicle carrying hostages released by Hamas driving towards the Rafah Crossing this evening
Her father Tom Hand faced an unbearable two-day wait for news about his daughter Emily after Hamas terrorists stormed the kibbutz where she was staying for a sleepover at her friend’s home on October 7.
When he was incorrectly told her body had been found, he welcomed the news because he said it was better than her being taken hostage during the barbaric attack on the Be’eri Kibbutz.
At the time he told CNN: ‘She was either dead, or in Gaza. And if you know anything about what they do to people in Gaza, that is worse than death.
‘They’d have no food. They’d have no water. She’d be in a dark room filled with Christ knows how many people. And terrified every minute, hour, day, and possible years to come. So death was a blessing. An absolute blessing.’
Around three weeks later Emily’s family was told she might not be dead.
A Red Cross vehicle, carrying hostages abducted by Hamas militants during the October 7 attack on Israel, arrives at the Rafah border, amid a hostages-prisoners swap deal between Hamas and Israel
‘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.’
Earlier, at a press conference in London, Mr Hand said he believed she was facing ‘sheer terror and panic every hour of every day.’
‘She must be saying every day: ”Where’s my daddy? Where’s my daddy, why isn’t be coming to save me?”’
He added: ‘I don’t know what condition she’s gonna be in, but she’s gonna be broken, very broken, mentally and physically, and we’ll have to fix that.’
Her older sister, Natalie, told Israeli media: ‘We were told that she had been murdered. We were in mourning.
Noga and Shiri Weiss pictured as they were released from the Hamas terrorist group
Sharon Avigdori, and her daughter Noam, 12, were also pictured safely returning to their home territory
Hamas finally freed 13 Israeli hostages and seven of other nationalities on Saturday after initially refusing to let them go
‘On October 31, they told us that it was highly likely that she had been abducted.’
When Natalie was asked whether she had anything she wanted to say to Emily, on the off-chance she could be listening, she said: ‘I want to tell you that we are doing everything to get you home. We know you are being held hostage.
‘We love you so much and miss you.’
Speaking to the Mirror ahead of his daughter’s long-awaited release, a relieved 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.’
Earlier the proud Irishman, who travelled to Israel to be reunited with his little girl, said she would enjoy ‘the best birthday party she never had’ after having marked turning nine while being held hostage.
On Saturday, Qatari and Egyptian mediators said Hamas agreed to release 13 Israelis and seven ‘foreigners’ on Saturday in exchange for 39 Palestinians imprisoned by Israel.
The hostages – six women and seven children – were handed over to the Red Cross and crossed over at the Rafah Crossing on the border between Gaza and Egypt at around 9.30pm. By 10.05pm, the hostages were back on Israeli soil.
Hostages were seen on their way to the Rafah Crossing this evening
Among the hostages released from both sides were 41 children and 11 women
A total of 13 Israelis and seven ‘foreigners’ were handed to Red Cross in exchange for 39 Palestinians
This evening, Qatar ‘s foreign ministry said 13 Israeli hostages will leave Gaza in addition to seven foreign hostages
This is the scene at Ofer Prison in the West Bank, as the wait for hostages to be released continues
Emily was among at least 30 children believed to be still held in Gaza.
Irish Tánaiste Micheál Martin said: ‘I am delighted that Emily Hind – a bright and beautiful young girl – has been released and will be reunited with her family.
‘After weeks of trauma, this is a precious and deeply moving moment for the Hand family.
Who are the hostages that have been released?
Hila Rotem Shoshani, 13
Emily Hand, 9
Maya Regev, 21
Noam Or, 17
Alma Or, 13
Noga Weiss, 53
Shiri Weiss, 18
Sharon Avigdori, 52
Noam Avigdori, 12
Shoshan Haran, 67
Adi Shoham, 38
Yahel Shoham, 3
Naveh Shoham, 8
‘The people of Ireland have been touched by Emily’s story, her innocence and the quiet dignity and determination of her father, Tom.
‘I had the opportunity to meet Tom before travelling to the region, and I was struck by the strength and resilience with which he advocated for his daughter’s release.
‘This is a message that I and my colleagues in government sought to amplify as we engaged internationally, in a bid to secure Emily’s safe return.
‘I want to acknowledge the role played by the US, Qatar, Egypt and others that have been involved in securing the release of the hostages.
‘I am conscious today that many more hostages remain in the hands of Hamas. I reiterate my call that all hostages in Gaza should be released immediately and unconditionally.’
Relatives of the hostages set free tonight have celebrated their release.
Adi Shoham’s cousin Inbal Tzach, told The Guardian:’Like everyone else we watched our loved ones on their way home. The struggle has not ended. This is the saddest joy and the happiest sadness, but our family is home.
‘This is an emotional evening for the families who received their loved ones tonight. We will continue the struggle until everyone comes home.’
Zohar Avigdori, who is the uncle of Noam Avigdori and sister-in-law of Sharon Avigdori, who were also released today, told the paper: ‘We are very excited, our legs are shaking and we are impatiently waiting to hug our loved ones, Noam and Sharon.’
The terror group claimed earlier on Saturday that Israel had not complied with the deal’s terms and not delivered enough aid to Gaza.
This evening, Qatar’s foreign ministry spokesman Majed Al Ansari said: ‘After a delay, obstacles to release of prisoners were overcome through Qatari-Egyptian contacts with both sides, and 39 Palestinian civilians will be released tonight, while 13 Israeli hostages will leave Gaza in addition to seven foreigners.’
In a second post, Ansari said the Israelis to be released from Gaza consisted of eight children and five women.
‘Those to be released from Israeli prisons comprised 33 children and six women’, the spokesman said.
People participate in a show of solidarity with hostages being held in the Gaza Strip, near the Museum of Art in Tel Aviv
A total of 50 hostages currently held by Hamas are to be released during a four-day truce with Israel, the first such pause in fighting since October 7
Relatives of the Israeli prisoners that have been captive in Gaza Strip by Hamas stage a demonstration in Tel Aviv, Israel
Irish Tánaiste Micheál Martin said: ‘I am delighted that Emily Hind – a bright and beautiful young girl – has been released and will be reunited with her family’
Ruth Munder, a released Israeli hostage, walks with an Israeli soldier shortly after her arrival in Israel on Friday
Hamas has said it was delaying the release of a second group of hostages, claiming that Israel had not complied with the deal’s terms and not delivered enough aid to the besieged enclave
The UN agency for Palestinian refugees said 196 trucks of aid entered on Friday, and Israel said four fuel trucks and four tanks of gas entered Saturday
The hostages have been handed over to the Red Cross and are on their way to the Rafah Crossing in the Gaza Strip
Tens of thousands of Israelis have amassed in Tel Aviv as the country waits for the return of a second group of hostages
People attend a rally organized by the Bring Them Home Now association to support families of kidnapped people and to call for release of hostages, in Tel Aviv
A number of Palestinians were also reportedly injured as a result of gunfire from Israeli forces as they waited for the release of their relatives as part of the exchange agreement near Ofer Prison in Ramallah, West Bank, this evening.
On the first day of the four-day ceasefire, Hamas released 24 of the roughly 240 hostages taken during its October 7 attack on Israel that triggered the war, and Israel freed 39 Palestinians from prison.
Those freed in Gaza were 13 Israelis, 10 Thais and a Filipino.
Hamas has handed over a second group of Israeli hostages, AFP reports
The hostages have been held captive since they were abducted by Hamas during the October 7 terror massacre
The truce between Israel and Hamas has so far held. Pictured: People gathering on the Rafah border crossing where aid trucks are expected to be passing once the handover begins
On Saturday, Hamas provided mediators Egypt and Qatar with a list of 14 hostages to be released, and it has been passed to Israel, according to a Egyptian official speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not permitted to talk about details of the ongoing negotiations.
However, terror group Hamas then said it was delaying the release of a second group of hostages, claiming that Israel had not complied with the deal’s terms and not delivered enough aid to Gaza.
The UN agency for Palestinian refugees said 196 trucks of aid entered on Friday, and Israel said four fuel trucks and four tanks of gas entered Saturday.
Relatives, friends and supporters of Israeli hostages held in Gaza since the October 7 attack by Hamas in southern Israel, take part in a protest asking for their release in Tel Aviv on November 25
Thousands of people and the families of hostages hold up their mobile phones with the torch on in Tel Aviv to sing the Israeli national anthem
A woman holds a flag of Israel and a portrait of 13-year-old Alma, held hostage in Gaza since the October 7 attack by Hamas terrorists
A young Israeli holds a portrait of 56-year-old Gelerenter Itzhak, held hostage in Gaza since the October 7 attack
Earlier an Israeli military spokesperson had told France’s BFM television station that, barring last minute changes, 13 Israeli hostages were expected to be freed
Israeli families are preparing to greet their relatives who are due to be released later today
Empty chairs represent the people who were abducted by Hamas more than a month ago
A total of 50 Israeli hostages are to be freed by Hamas in staggered releases over the four-day truce in exchange for 150 Palestinian prisoners.
Israel has said the truce can be extended an extra day for every additional 10 hostages freed – something US President Joe Biden said he hoped would occur.
Separately, a Qatari delegation arrived in Israel on Saturday to coordinate with parties on the ground and ‘ensure the deal continues to move smoothly’, according to a diplomat briefed on the visit.
This is the emotional moment a father reunited with his wife and two young daughters after they spent 49 days being held captive by Hamas terrorists in Gaza
Aviv Asher, two, her sister Raz, four and mother Doron, step off an Israeli military helicopter
The two girls were holding toys as they held tightly in their parent’s arms on the hospital bed, after being checked over by doctors
A pair of female IDF soldiers comfort Raz, four, and Aviv, two, following their release
An Israeli soldier sits with Raz as she sits down to eat shortly after the youngster was freed
The diplomat spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorised to discuss details with the media.
The start of the pause brought the first quiet for 2.3 million Palestinians reeling from relentless Israeli bombardment that has killed thousands, driven three-quarters of the population from their homes and levelled residential areas.
Rocket fire from Gaza militants into Israel went silent.
For the first time in more than a month, aid reached northern Gaza. The Palestinian Red Crescent said 61 trucks carrying food, water and medical supplies headed there on Saturday, the largest aid convoy to reach the area yet.
Ofer Prison this evening as three Palestinians, waiting for the release of their relatives as part of the exchange agreement, were injured as a result of gunfire opened by Israeli forces in Ramallah, West Bank
Health officers carry injured Palestinians as a result of gunfire opened by Israeli forces
An injured person was carried on a stretcher into an ambulance this evening
Medics carry a Palestinian man injured during clashes with Israeli security forces outside the Israeli Ofer military facility
Ohad Munder and his mother Keren (left) travel in an Israeli military helicopter en route to the Schneider Children’s Medical Center
Nine-year-old Ohad Monder meets his father, his brother and family members at the Schneider Children’s Medical Center, in Israel today
Ohad and his older brother warmly hug after being reunited following his release on Friday
Hundreds of relatives gathered in Tel Aviv awaiting news of their loved ones
Families hope a last minute glitch in the release will be resolved allowing 14 people to be returned to Israel this evening
The UN said it and the Palestinian Red Crescent were also able to evacuate 40 patients and family members from a hospital in Gaza City, where much of the fighting has taken place, to a hospital in Khan Younis.
Until Saturday afternoon, it still appeared everything was going according to plan. Aid trucks were entering Gaza, Hamas handed a list of more than a dozen hostages slated for release to mediators Qatar and Egypt, and Israel’s Prison Service prepared a list of dozens of Palestinian prisoners for release.
But by nightfall, as the hostages should have emerged from Gaza, Hamas announced that it was delaying the release over what it said were Israeli truce violations.
READ MORE: Faces of freedom: From the Irish girl who celebrated her ninth birthday in Hamas terror tunnels (but was feared dead by her family) to the siblings taken hostage as their mother was murdered – meet the 13 people whose 50-day captivity hell is finally over
The group alleged the aid deliveries permitted by Israel fell short of what was promised, and that not enough of the aid was reaching northern Gaza – the focus of Israel’s ground offensive and the main combat zone.
Hamas also said not enough veteran prisoners were freed in the first swap on Friday.
Osama Hamdan, a senior Hamas official, said earlier in Beirut: ‘This is putting the deal in danger and we have spoken to mediators about that.’
In Tel Aviv, several thousand people packed a central square called ‘the square of the hostages,’ awaiting news of the second release.
‘Don’t forget the others because it’s getting harder, harder and harder. It’s heartbreaking,’ said Neri Gershon, a Tel Aviv resident.
Saturday’s setback came just hours after Egypt, which controls the Rafah border crossing into southern Gaza through which vital aid supplies have resumed, said it had received ‘positive signals’ from all parties over a possible extension of that deal.
Diaa Rashwan, the head of Egypt’s State Information Service (SIS), said in a statement that Cairo was holding extensive talks with all parties to reach an agreement which would mean ‘the release of more detainees in Gaza and Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails.’
Israel has said the ceasefire could be extended if Hamas continues to release hostages at a rate of at least 10 per day. A Palestinian source has said up to 100 hostages could go free.
Israel and Hamas have said hostilities would resume as soon as the truce ends, although US President Joe Biden said on Friday there was a real chance of extending the truce.
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