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Thomas Hand and Emily Hand after she was released by Hamas. Family handout/PA
Emily Hand

Emily Hand could only whisper after being released by Hamas, her father says

Thomas Hand told CNN that when he asked his daughter how long she had been held for, she said “a year”.

THE FATHER OF Irish-Israeli girl Emily Hand, who was released last Saturday after being held hostage by Hamas in Gaza for almost 50 days, has said his daughter would only speak in whispers after she was freed. 

Thomas Hand, originally from Dun Laoghaire in Dublin, spoke to CNN last night and described what his daughter experienced while being held hostage.

Nine-year-old Emily had been on a sleepover in the Kibbutz Be’eri where she lived, when it was raided by Hamas last month. Thomas was initially told she had died in the attack.

Describing seeing her for the first time after her release, he told CNN: “All of a sudden the door opened up and she just ran. It was beautiful, just like I had imagined it.

“The most shocking, disturbing part of meeting her was she was just whispering, you couldn’t hear her. I had to put my ear on her lips,” he said.

He said Emily thought he had also been kidnapped by Hamas, and when he asked her how long she had been held for, she said “a year”. 

“Apart from the whispering, that was like a punch in the guts,” he said.

Speaking to The Sun, Thomas said he will do “whatever it takes” to restore his daughter’s sense of safety and wellbeing.

“I can’t bear to think about what she’s been through – she’s been terrorised by terrorists in hell – but as her dad, it’s my job to make it better, and I will,” he said.

Emily turned nine while being held hostage by Hamas. Her father said she lost more than half a stone during her time in captivity, but he is determined to help her heal.

He added: “It’s going to be a long road, but we’ll get there.”

Thomas thought his daughter was being held prisoner in tunnels nicknamed the “Gaza Metro” but Emily told him that was not the case.

“They made her run from the Israeli army from house to house. She was constantly being moved – sometimes under fire – to stay one step ahead of the army,” he said.

“She must have been absolutely terrified – an eight-year-old girl being led by strangers from one blown-up shell of a house to the next in the middle of a war zone.”

river (10) Thomas Hand and Emily Hand after she was released by Hamas. IDF IDF

He continued: “I said when she was being held that I was horrified by the thought of her spending her ninth birthday in the tunnels under Gaza.

“But the reality of what was happening to her was actually much worse – and I’m glad I didn’t know what she was going through at the time.”

Thomas said that Emily remains in shock and is being evaluated by child trauma specialists in a hospital near Tel Aviv.

He said doctors have put her on a course of vitamins to boost her nervous system, and she is now “eating like a horse” after being deprived of food for more than seven weeks.

“I know now I’m going to become an overprotective dad and still can’t bear to let her out of my sight,” he said.

“But the last thing I would ever want is for her to feel trapped or threatened in any way again.”

With reporting from Jane Moore

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Press Association