top of page

Father of 9-year-old hostage reveals what daughter told him after her release

2023-12-18 (219)

CNN's Clarissa Ward speaks with Thomas Hand, a father who believed his 9-year-old daughter Emily was killed by Hamas during the attacks of October 7th. Hand's daughter was found to be alive and was released as part of the exchange of hostages and prisoners during the truce between Israel and Hamas.

Video Transcription:

Nearly two months after

being ripped from their homes
and torn apart from their families,

freed hostages are returning
to completely different lives in Israel.

Some of them are waiting
for other family members to be released.

Others are just learning
for the first time

that their loved ones
were killed by Hamas.

Clarissa Ward
spoke with one father, Thomas hand.

You might remember him.

He initially thought
that his daughter had been killed.

He was actually grateful for it because
of what he imagined Hamas might do to her.

Then he found out that she was alive.

And now nine year old Emily is home safe
and she is slowly sharing the details

of what happened to her after
she was kidnaped by Hamas on October 7th.

So the jets should be here
in a couple of minutes like, oh,

family and

all of a sudden the door opened up

and she just ran.

It was beautiful.

Just like in

just like I had imagined it,

you know, running together.

I squeezed the probably squeezed too hard.

It was a moment
Thomas had thought would never come.

Told his nine year old daughter
Emily had been killed in the October

7th attacks, then that she was believed
to be held hostage in Gaza,

finally reunited with her family

after 50 days in captivity free,

but visibly haunted by her ordeal.

The most

shocking, disturbing
part of the meeting was

she was just wispering, I couldnt hear it

I had to put my ear on her lips
like this, closed

and say, what did you say?

I thought you said
I thought you were kidnaped.

She thought I was in


And what has she told you?

About what she's gone through?

I thought she was in the tunnels,
but she wasn't in the tunnels.

They were actually

fleeing from house to house.

She didn't like it.

People prefer referred to as Gaza.

She says the "Kufsa" (in hebrew) , the box.

So you have to say, like,
how long were you in the box?

The "Kupsa"?

She said, a year.

And apart from the whispering,
that was like

a punch in the guts.

There's that one photograph

right after your reunion

and you're holding her. And

there is this sort of seriousness

to her facial expression.

Yeah, she's.

She's almost staring, isn't she?

She a disconnect with everything
going on around her.

Has she cried? oh yehh

last night

she cried

until her face was red and blotchy.

She couldn't stop. She.

She didn't want any comfort.

I think.

I guess
she's forgotten how to be comforted.

I just had to wait
until she came out of it by herself.

And she knows how to do that.

She's a very determined little girl,
very strong.

I knew that her spirit
would get her through it.

There have been glimpses of the old Emily

happily walking the family dog, Jauncey,

but many moments of pain,
like when Thomas was forced to break

the news to her
that his ex-wife Nakis, had been killed.

Does Emily understand
what happened on October 7th?


Yeah, unfortunately she does.

And how do you tell her?

You know,
your second mom is dead, killed, shot.

When we got back to the hospital
after psychiatrist.

You know what? Weather.
What should I do? What should I do?

She said you've just got to tell her

The best way.


Yeah, that was.

That was very hard,
because we told her and,

you know, her little eyes closed up
and she just went

to the shop shopping and take a breath.

Terrible thing to tell, a child.

And as they recommend
that, you have to close the book.

It sounds cruel,
but you have to stop that hope.

So you you you've got to stop that.

It has to be. I know.

Oh, kisses.


And so.

What is the next step now?

How long do you stay here?

How do you start a new life?

The future is obviously

to get Emily back to health.

And we will do that along the way.

But the next thing is, along the way
is that we have to get all the children.


all the women, all the men,
all the hostages have to come back.

They have to be brought back.

Now, Jake, you heard Thomas talking about
getting Emily back to health.

Now, she is in good physical condition.

There's no indication
that she was physically abused in any way.

She lost a lot of weight.

She was very, very pale.

She said that they didn't
have enough to eat.

But obviously
there is the psychological component here.

The very fact
that she was only able to whisper because

she's so frightened of raising her voice,
he said that the only word

she appeared to learn in Arabic
was the word for be Quiet,

which gives you an indication of the fear
that she was living through.

He also talked about how she has very bad
head lice,

but all things considered, she is in
reasonably good health physically.

And one other important thing,
when he talks

about bringing the hostages
back, he's very focused at the moment

on the mother of Emily's
very good friend, Kayla.

This is the girl
he had gone to the play date with.

She had gone to the playdate was spend

the night with was kidnaped
with, was held with along with Heller's

mother, Reya Rotem,
who acted like a second mother to her

and then inexplicably at the last minute,
two days before they were

due to be released,
Raya was separated from Emily and Kayla.

You can imagine
Kayla was released with Emily

and the anguish that she is going through
now, being separated from her mother.

And and this is a very important point
for Tom.

As he says,

going forward, we need to keep fighting
for all the hostages, but particularly

for Raya,
and try to get to the bottom of why it was

that she was separated from her daughter
just ahead of their release.

bottom of page