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Release of Israeli girl, once thought dead, ends 50 days of public torment for father

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Distraught dad Thomas Hand’s unspeakable torment turned to joy on Saturday when his daughter, Emily, was one of 13 Israeli hostages freed by Hamas.

“Emily has come back to us!” the Hand family said in a statement shared with Fox News Digital. 

“We can’t find the words to describe our emotions after 50 challenging and complicated days.”

IRISH-ISRAELI GIRL, 9, WHOSE FATHER THOUGHT SHE WAS KILLED BY HAMAS TERRORISTS AMONG HOSTAGES FREED FROM GAZA

Emily, who turned 9 on Nov. 17 while in captivity, was among the 240 Israelis taken hostage by Hamas in its Oct. 7 terror attack on civilian targets. 

Emily “lost a lot of weight from her face and body,” Hand said in an interview — recorded in the hospital where she’s now being cared for — that was shared with Fox News Digital.

Emily and Thomas Hand

Emily Hand was abducted by Hamas during the terror group’s Oct. 7, 2023 attack on Israel. She spent her 9th birthday on Nov. 17 with “no friends” and “no light,” said her distraught father Thomas Hand, “in the tunnels of Gaza.”  (Tom Hand via CNN; Fox News Digital)

He said, however, that his daughter is “generally doing better than expected.”

Hand, a single father born in Dublin, Ireland, became an internationally visible face of the agony endured by Israeli families after the attacks. 

“We can’t find the words to describe our emotions after 50 challenging and complicated days.” — Hand family

Hand suffered a series of painful public indignities, on top of the horror of the unknown fate of his daughter for so long. 

In the days after the terror attack, he was first told that his little girl was dead. He said in one interview that her death was a better fate than her being held in captivity and tortured by Hamas terrorists. 

He later found out that his daughter had been taken hostage by Hamas.  

Emily Toni Kornberg Hand

An undated photo of Emily Toni Kornberg Hand, 9, who was released by Hamas after the group held her and others captive in the Israel-Hamas war. (Bring Them Home Now)

“We had an eyewitness seeing her being led away by the terrorists with her friend, where she was doing a sleepover, and [with] the mother of that friend,” Hand said in an exclusive interview with Fox News Digital in New York City, two days before Emily’s birthday.

His daughter “had Disney pajamas on,” he said, when she was snatched out of the comfort of their close-knit kibbutz of Be’eri in southern Israel. 

ISRAELI GIRL SPENDS 9TH BIRTHDAY IN ‘TUNNELS OF GAZA,’ WITH ‘NO FRIENDS, NO LIGHT,’ SAYS DISTRAUGHT FATHER

“So it’s absolutely confirmed that she was taken away by the terrorists and is in the tunnels of Gaza now.”

Hamas terrorists hauled Emily away along with her friend and the friend’s mother, Hila and Raya Rotem. 

Hila Rotem was released with Emily on Saturday. The mother is believed to have remained in captivity as of now.

Antisemitism in New York City, victims of kidnapped-by-Hamas posters torn down

Thomas Hand of Israel is interviewed in New York City on Wednesday, Nov. 15, 2023. Hand is the father of Hamas hostage, Emily Hand, who turned 9 years old in captivity on Friday, Nov. 17. The girl has now been released.  (Jennifer Mitchell for Fox News Digital)

Hand was also haunted by the image of his daughter Emily spending her birthday “in the tunnels of Gaza.”

“No party. No friends. She won’t even know if it’s day or night,” he said. 

“There’s no light down there. So she won’t know it’s her birthday.” 

Officials told Hand “in all probability she’s in Gaza because there was no blood in the bomb shelter and there was no blood in the house that matched Emily’s DNA,” he said. 

WOMAN VANDALIZES ISRAELI HOSTAGE POSTERS RIGHT IN FRONT OF CAPTIVES’ OWN FAMILY IN NEW YORK CITY

Hand’s mental health as of last week was described as “fragile” by one person working with family members of the Israeli hostages. 

He was accompanied at the New York City interview with Fox News Digital by Michael Levy, brother of hostage Or Levy, and by Israeii mental health expert Dr. Ofrit Shapira-Berman. 

NYC antisemitic attack

A woman (far left) flippantly waves her hand after tearing down posters of Hamas hostages in front of the father and brother of two of the people held in captivity. Grief-stricken father Thomas Hand, right, yelled in anguish and appeared ready to chase after the woman before Ofrit Shapira-Berman, center, interrupted him. Hand’s daughter, Emily, was held hostage by Hamas after the Oct. 7 terror attacks. She turned 9 years old on Friday, Nov. 17.  (Kerry J. Byrne/Fox News Digital)

The delegation from Israel was also outraged by a shocking indignity immediately after the interview outside Central Synagogue in Manhattan.

A woman ripped down posters of kidnap victims right in front of them. 

The grief-stricken Hand shouted out in anguish at the woman, who flippantly waved off the heartbroken Israelis as she scurried off down the street. 

“I’m horrified,” Naor Shalem, a pedestrian who saw the shocking incident, as Fox News Digital previously reported.

“We are overjoyed to embrace Emily again.” 

He called the outburst in front of the hostages’ family members a sign of the attacker’s “inhumanity.”

Hand was also tortured by the fear Emily must have felt in captivity that her father was dead. 

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Emily’s mother died when the girl was just 2½ years old. 

“My daughter, she doesn’t know if I was killed or kidnapped or somewhere else,” Hand said during the New York City interview.  

Thomas Hand

Thomas Hand of Israel stands on East 55th Street in Manhattan on Nov. 15, 2023. Behind him are posters of Israelis kidnapped by Hamas during its Oct. 7, 2023, terror attack. Hand’s daughter Emily, 8 at the time of the attack, went missing on that day. She is among a group of hostages who has just been released this weekend. (Sydney Borchers/Fox News Digital)

“She’s in terror every day.”

The terror for both father and daughter has now ended, yet it continues for hundreds of other hostage family members. 

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“We are overjoyed to embrace Emily again,” the Hand family said in their statement.

“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.”

Sydney Borchers of Fox News Digital contributed reporting.

For more Lifestyle articles, visit www.foxnews.com/lifestyle. 


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