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Father tells CNN how daughter Emily Hand survived Hamas captivity

Emily Hand had to run from house to house, forced by Hamas as Israeli forces attacked Gaza, her father, Thomas Hand, told CNN .

“It’s scary. Being pulled, dragged, pushed, probably under gunfire,” he said on Tuesday (28).

These are some of the details that the daughter is slowly sharing about what happened after she was kidnapped on October 7 and taken to Gaza, a place she now calls “the box”.

“She’s opening up slowly, little by little,” Hand said. “We will only know what she really went through when she opens up,” he told CNN . “I want to know a lot of information, but we have to let her, when she is ready, she will say.”

Emily, who completed 9 years in captivity, was held with her friend Hila Rotem-Shoshani and Hila’s mother, Raaya, before the children were released last Saturday (25).

Raaya took care of Hila and Emily as if the two were her daughters, said the girl’s father. Hila being separated from her mother two nights before the girls were released – a violation of agreements made between Hamas and Israel – was “another step of cruelty”, he said.

From death to captivity and hope

Emily was sleeping at Hila’s house when Hamas terrorists invaded Kibbutz Be’eri. Hand was trapped in the house for hours, unable to hear from his daughter, while the community was devastated – around 130 residents were killed and others captured.

About two days later, kibbutz leaders told him that Emily’s body had been seen. He recalled the moment CNN : “They just said, ‘We found Emily. She is dead’. And I said, ‘Yes!’ I said yes!’ and I smiled because this is the best news of the possibilities I knew… So death was a blessing, an absolute blessing.”

But almost a month later, the Israeli army said it was “highly likely” that Emily was alive and held hostage by Hamas. Hand explained that the military was gathering intelligence information. None of the remains on kibbutz Be’eri have been identified as Emily’s. There was no blood in the house where she slept. And cell phones belonging to Hila’s family were traced to Gaza.

After feeling that death would be a blessing, he now had every fear of the conditions in which Emily was trapped. “The unknown is terrible. The wait is horrible,” he told CNN . Despite this, there was also some hope.

Photo gallery shows who are the Israeli hostages released by the radical Islamic group Hamas in the second wave, this Saturday (25)

Celebration with video of Beyoncé and family dog

Eight weeks after he last saw his daughter, Hand was informed that Emily was on the list of the second group of hostages to be released under the temporary truce between Israel and Hamas.

He tried to contain his excitement as he arrived at the base where the freed hostages were being taken. There was a long delay and then the news that she was with the Red Cross.

“Suddenly the door opened and she just ran. It was beautiful, exactly as I imagined, running together”, recalled Hand. “I probably squeezed her too hard,” he added, giving his take on the now-iconic reunion video, where he greets his daughter with the nickname “Emush.”

“It was only when she took a step back that I could see that her face was thin, like mine, whereas before it was chubby, like a little girl, the face of a child.”

Like the other hostages, Emily lost weight and Hand said he had never seen her so pale. And he was shocked when she spoke to him.

“The most shocking and disturbing part of finding her was that she was just whispering, you couldn’t hear her. I had to put my ear close to her lips,” he said. “She was conditioned not to make noise.”

A photograph of father and daughter released by the Israel Defense Forces gives a glimpse of the situation.

“You could see the terror through glassy eyes,” Hand said.

But he also saw a sign of the child he knew when he handed her his cell phone in the van after the meeting. “The first thing she did was put on a Beyoncé song,” he said, adding that she was also smiling and starting to laugh again.

He brought the family dog, Johnsie, to the reunion to offer and receive unconditional love in case Emily was mad at him for not coming to rescue her — a fear he’s held onto since learning she was alive. But Emily told her father that she thought he had been taken hostage too.

And when he asked how long ago she thought she had been kidnapped, she replied “a year.” “Beyond the whispers, this was a punch in the gut. One year”.

Deprivation but now recovery

The hostages had enough food to survive and plenty of water to drink, Hand said. “They always had breakfast, sometimes they had lunch, sometimes they had something to eat in the evening.” Emily was so hungry that she learned to enjoy eating bread with olive oil.

She said “no one hit us” and Hand imagines that the strength of the voices alone was enough to control her. The children couldn’t make any noise and could do little other than draw and play with some cards.

The father is very grateful that Emily stayed with Hila and Raaya most of the time, taking comfort in knowing that Emily had someone to take care of her.

PHOTOS: Israel releases images of alleged hospital in Gaza where Hamas held hostages

Source: CNN Brasil

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