Emily Hand
Emily Handcourtesy of family

Thomas Hand, the father of Emily Hand, the nine-year-old girl who was released on Saturday night after being kidnapped during the Hamas massacre of October 7, spoke to CNN about his daughter's traumatic experiences during her 50 days as a hostage.

Hand said that while he wants to know what his child endured, she can only open up about those dark days when she is ready.

He stated that when she was kidnapped, Emily was "pulled, dragged, pushed" by her captors through Kibbutz Be'eri on the day of the massacre, and taken to a place in Gaza which she is calling "the box."

Hand described his reunion with his daughter on Saturday night, saying that “all of a sudden the door opened up and she just ran. It was beautiful, just like I had imagined it, running together."

However, when he got a good look at his daughter, he saw that "her face was chiseled, like mine, whereas before it was chubby, girly, a young kid face.”

Emily had lost a significant amount of weight during her 50 days in captivity and was paler than he had ever seen her.

He further stated that he was shocked by how Emily would only whisper because her Hamas captors had conditioned her over the previous month and a half to not make any noise. “You could just see glassy-eyed terror,” he said.

When Hand asked how long Emily thought she had been held in Gaza, she replied "a year," when she had actually been held for less than two months.

“Apart from the whispering, that was a punch in the guts. A year,” he said.

Hand said that he learned from Emily that the group of hostages she was with only ate breakfast regularly, and sometimes had something for lunch and dinner, and that she became so hungry that she came to love bread with nothing but olive oil. He further stated that the captives never hit her, as the threat of their voices was enough to keep the hostages in line.

He said that when Emily was returned to him, her head was covered in lice, and she "cried until her face was red and blotchy" last night.

As part of their efforts to return to a normal life, the family held a belated birthday party for Emily, who turned nine while in captivity.

Emily was released together with her friend, Hila Rotem-Shoshani, whose house she was sleeping over at. The girls were kidnapped together with Hila's mother, Raaya, who took care of them for most of the time they were in captivity.

Two days before the girls were released, Hamas separated Raaya from the girls, breaking its commitment under the hostage deal to keep mothers and their children together. Hand called this “another step of cruelty" by Hamas.

He stated that Raaya must be freed for the sake of the girls, demanding of the world: “Don’t go silent on us now. Bring them home, bring them home.”