Freed hostage Emily Hand ‘better than expected’

Emily Hand
Image caption,Emily Hand turned nine while being held by Hamas in Gaza

The father of Emily Hand has said she is “generally doing better than we expected”, after having been released by Hamas.

Irish-Israeli girl Emily was one of 17 hostages handed over late on Saturday.

On Sunday, her father, Thomas Hand, said she “lost a lot of weight from her face and body”.

Speaking from the hospital where Emily was receiving care, he said he wanted to “thank everyone that has helped and supported us throughout this whole 50 days”.

Mr Hand, who was born in Dublin, also called for the release of more hostages.

“We’re still fighting,” he said.

Mr Hand called for the release of Raya Rotem, the mother of Hila Rotem who was freed at the same time as Emily.

“They promised they wouldn’t release children without their mothers but they did,” he said.

Thomas and Emily Hand embracing after her release
Image caption,Thomas Hand was initially informed that Emily was among a group of people killed in an attack on a kibbutz on 7 October

Emily turned nine while being held by Hamas.

Mr Hand was initially informed that Emily was among a group of people killed in an attack on a kibbutz on 7 October.

At the start of November he was told that Emily was believed to have been abducted rather than killed.

Emily was released as part of a four-day pause in fighting between Israel and Hamas in the Gaza Strip during which hostages and prisoners have been freed by both sides.

By Sunday evening 54 hostages had been released by Hamas during this pause and 117 prisoners had been freed by the Israeli government.

The Taoiseach (Irish Prime Minister) Leo Varadkar described Emily’s release as an “enormous joy and relief”, adding that “an innocent child who was lost has now been found and returned”.

The Israeli foreign minister criticised these remarks, posting on social media: “Emily Hand was not “lost”, she was kidnapped by a terror organization worse than ISIS that murdered her stepmother”.

Mr Varadkar defended his comments, saying: “The vast majority of people will know what I meant.”

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