Freed Hamas hostage Emily Hand refuses to speak above whisper after ordeal

The father of a young Irish-Israeli girl released by Hamas has said his daughter only speaks in whispers after she was ordered to remain silent during her horrifying ordeal.

Tom Hand, 63, was reunited with his daughter Emily after 50 days in captivity in Gaza.

She had been abducted while at a sleepover in Kibbutz Be’eri during the Hamas attack on October 7, along with her friend Hila, 13, who has also been released.

Israel-Hamas conflict
Thomas Hand and Natali Hand during a press conference for families of hostages feared taken in Gaza at the Embassy of Israel in Dublin on November 25 (Norma Burke/PA)

“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, and while she may have lost more than half a stone during her time in captivity, her father is determined to help her heal.

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

Mr Hand had feared his daughter was being held prisoner in a labyrinth of tunnels nicknamed the “Gaza Metro” but Emily said 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,” Mr Hand added.

“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.”

Mr Hand said his daughter had recounted Hamas gunmen were shouting “yala, yala, yala” in Arabic, which means “hurry, hurry, hurry”, at the hostages as they ran for their lives as Israel rained shells and gunfire down upon them.

Israel-Hamas conflict
A birthday spread on a table at the entrance to St Stephen’s Green in Dublin for Irish Israeli girl Emily Hand on November 17, her ninth birthday (David Young/PA)

“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.”

Mr Hand added 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,” Mr Hand said.

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

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