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Emily Hand, Israeli-Irish 9-year-old girl who was believed killed by Hamas, among hostages freed from Gaza

Second group of Hamas-held hostages freed
Second group of Hamas-held hostages freed after long delay 03:31

Emily Hand — the Israeli-Irish 9-year-old girl who was initially believed to have been killed by Hamas — was among the 17 hostages freed from Gaza on Saturday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's office said in a statement. 

She was released with the second batch of hostages – 13 Israelis and four Thai Nationals – after an initial hostage release on Friday, the first day of the temporary cease-fire. 

Emily was among seven children ranging from 3 to 16, and six women ranging in age from 18 to 67, who were released in the second batch, the prime minister's office announced.

Emily Hand, 9 years old, was released to Israel after 50 days in captivity in Gaza. Courtesy Hand Family

Emily, who was 8 years old when she was abducted by Hamas during their Oct. 7 terror attacks on Israel, was initially believed to be killed by the militant group. She celebrated her ninth birthday on Nov. 17 in captivity in Gaza.  

Her father, Thomas Hand, told CBS News two days before his daughter's birthday, "The sad thing about it is, she won't even know what day it is. She won't know whether it's night or day. She won't even though it's her birthday."

Hand said that his little girl was at a sleepover at a friend's house at Kibbutz Be'eri when the massacre took place. Israel said more than 100 people were killed in that community alone, among the more than 1,200 who were killed in the Hamas attack.

At the time, her father, an Irish national who is not Jewish and moved to Israel as a kibbutz volunteer three decades ago, was told by Israeli officials that his daughter had been killed. Hand told CBS News at first he was informed "she was found dead." 

At the time, Hand told CNN he was relieved by the knowledge that Emily was at least not in Hamas' hands. 

"The thought of a little eight-year-old child in the hands of those animals... Can you imagine the sheer horror for an 8-year-old child?" 

Emily Hand, then 8, is seen with her father Thomas Hand in a family photo. Courtesy of Thomas Hand

A few weeks later, however, Israeli authorities told Hand his daughter might be alive, as they didn't find her remains at Kibbutz Be'eri. 

Hand was filled with hope. He pressed governments around the world not to give up on the hostage release. 

"It doesn't matter how sick I am. It doesn't matter how tired I am. We are going to get her back," he told CBS News. 

Father of girl believed to be held by Hamas pleads for her return 09:55

Emily has now been reunited with her family after 50 days in captivity in Gaza. In a statement to CBS News Saturday, her family said, "Emily has come back to us! We can't find the words to describe our emotions after 50 challenging and complicated days." 

They added that while they are "overjoyed to embrace Emily again," at the same time they remember "all the hostages who have yet to return."

"We appreciate the unwavering support as we continue our efforts for the safe return of all," the statement read.

— Elaine Cobbe and Analisa Novak contributed to this report.

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