The family and friends of Emily Hand have expressed their joy as the nine-year-old Israeli-Irish girl was released from captivity in Gaza by Hamas. After 50 challenging and complicated days, Emily has finally returned to her family. Initially feared to be among the victims of the October attack in Israel, Emily was later counted among the hostages. She was released along with a group of 13 Israelis and four Thai nationals as part of a prisoner exchange deal between Israel and Palestine. The released hostages were greeted by cheering crowds in the West Bank as they walked free from the jail.
Talia, a friend of Emily, expressed her curiosity about the captives’ experiences during their time in Gaza, wondering about their well-being and if they were provided with enough food and drink. Emily was abducted while attending a sleepover in the Be’eri Kibbutz. While her friend, Hila, was also released, Hila’s mother, Raya Rotem, is still held captive. Emily’s family, while overjoyed to embrace her again, also remembered the remaining hostages who are yet to be freed.
Irish Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar, and Foreign Minister, Micheál Martin, shared their relief and happiness at Emily’s safe return. Varadkar described the ordeal as a cruel torture for Emily’s family, emphasizing the immense relief felt by the entire country. In addition to Emily, Maya Regev, a 21-year-old who was kidnapped during the Supernova music festival, was also released. However, her 18-year-old brother, Itay, is still held captive by Hamas. Maya was injured in the attack and is expected to undergo surgical operations to recover.
The release of some hostages brought mixed emotions for the residents of Be’eri Kibbutz, who were severely affected by the October attack. Adi Shoham was reunited with her children Naveh and Yahel, but her husband, Tal Shoham, remains in captivity. Adi’s aunt, Sharon Avigdori, and her daughter, Noam, were also abducted from the kibbutz. Adi’s cousin, Inbal Tzach, expressed a bittersweet feeling, calling it the saddest joy and happiest sadness, but emphasized that their family is finally together.
The mother of one of the Thai hostages expressed her disbelief and elation upon receiving the news of her son’s release. Four Thai nationals were confirmed to be among the recently freed hostages. The Prime Minister of Thailand, Srettha Thavisin, stated that those released were in good mental health. Among the Palestinians released was Israa Jaabis, who had been sentenced to 11 years in prison for detonating a gas cylinder at a checkpoint. Jaabis, whose face is partially disfigured due to burns from the incident, expressed her gratitude for her freedom while acknowledging the pain of being separated from her loved ones. Young prisoners released from Ofer prison in the West Bank were welcomed by their families and supporters.
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