A 9-year-old Israeli-Irish girl believed to be dead was unexpectedly freed Saturday as part of the hostage release deal between Israel and Hamas.
Emily Hand was among the 17 hostages released Saturday, the second wave of 50 hostages planned to be released by Hamas by Monday after Israel and Hamas reached a short-term cease-fire deal this week.
The girl’s father, Thomas Hand, told CBS News that his daughter was at a sleepover at Kibbutz Be’eri on Oct. 7, when Hamas militants unexpectedly attacked Israeli border settlements, killing 1,200 people and kidnapping about 240 more.
Thomas Hand was informed by the Israeli military that his daughter was killed, he told CBS News.
“The thought of a little eight-year-old child in the hands of those animals… Can you imagine the sheer horror for an 8-year-old child?” he said.
But the military, weeks later, told him that his daughter may in fact be alive, as her remains were not found.
She was released to Israel on Saturday after 50 days in captivity.
“Emily has come back to us!” her family said in a statement to CBS News. “We can’t find the words to describe our emotions after 50 challenging and complicated days.”
The release of the second wave of hostages was delayed slightly Saturday after Hamas claimed Israel did not adequately supply humanitarian aid, as agreed. The two sides struck a deal hours later, however, and the hostage deal and cease-fire continued.
“I am delighted that Emily Hand — a bright and beautiful young girl — has been released and will be reunited with her family,” Micheal Martin, Ireland’s foreign affairs minister, said in a statement.
“After weeks of trauma, this is a precious and deeply moving moment for the Hand family. The people of Ireland have been touched by Emily’s story, her innocence and the quiet dignity and determination of her father, Tom.”
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