Tel Aviv, Nov 26 2023- Nine-year-old Irish Israeli Emily Hand, whom Hamas first informed her parents that she was killed in the Israel-Hamas war, was returned to Israel very much alive and safe as the second lot of some 17 hostages were released under the four day ceasefire deal between Israel and Hamas.
Among the children released on Sunday, was Emily Hand, 9, an Irish-Israeli whose reunion with her father, Thomas, was captured on emotional video.
Emily’s family had been told she was dead; only to learn weeks later she was among the estimated 240 hostages seized on October 7 by militants in Israeli border communities, media reported on the release of the 2nd lot of hostages on Sunday.
“Emily has come back to us,” the family said in a statement. “We can’t find the words to describe our emotions after 50 challenging and complicated days.”
The other released Israelis were all women and children. An uneasy cease-fire between Israeli forces and Hamas militants appeared to remain in effect Sunday as loved ones waited for the expected release of more hostages that could include 4-year-old American Avigail Edan, USA Today reported.
Seventeen militant-held hostages were released late Saturday, 13 of them Israelis along with four Thai citizens. One of those freed was Emily Hand, whose parents initially were told she had been killed.
On Friday, 13 Israelis, 10 Thai nationals and a Filipino citizen were released, reports said.
Avigail’s parents were killed in the militant rampage into Israeli border communities October 7 that left 1,200 people dead, Israeli authorities say. About 240 people were seized by the militants and brought back to Gaza. The hostages being freed are women and children; Avigail and two women are among 10 Americans believed held by the militants.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office said it had received a list of hostages to be released Sunday and that family members had been notified. The initial deal called for Hamas is to release at least 50 Israeli hostages and Israel to free 150 Palestinian prisoners. All are women and minors.
More than 13,000 Palestinians have died in the war, most of them civilians, the Gaza Health Ministry said.
Hamas announced on Sunday that one of its top commanders had been killed but did not say when.
Israel said it had killed multiple high-ranking Hamas militants before the cease-fire went into effect, reports said.
The Palestinians who were released included at least two women who had been given long sentences after being convicted by Israeli courts of violent attacks. (Agency)