FREED hostage Emily Hand is barely able to speak after being ordered to stay silent by her Hamas captors for 50 days, her dad said last night.
The Disney fan spent her ninth birthday dodging bullets as gunmen herded her between houses in Gaza.
Her father Tom said: “She was a happy noisy kid, now she whispers.
“She’s been terrorised by terrorists in hell but as her dad it’s my job to make it better and I will.”
The sparkle in pop music fan Emily’s blue eyes has also dimmed while she lost more than half a stone during her horrifying ordeal.
Heartbreakingly, Tom revealed the first thing she wanted after her releasewas his phone — so she could watch a video of her favourite star Beyonce.
He has pledged to dedicate his life to the recovery of his brave little girl, who yesterday posed for a snap peeking behind a giant teddy — a belated birthday present.
Tom told The Sun in his first interview since she walked free: “I’ll do whatever it takes to get Emily back to where she was.
“Her chubby cheeks may have gone but she’s smiling again now she’s safe.
“I can’t bear to think about what she’s been through – she’s been terrorised by terrorists in hell – but as her dad it’s my job to make it better and I will.
“It’s going to be a long road but we’ll get there.”
Dublin-born Tom’s ex-wife Narkis, 52, was killed on October 7 when 400 Hamas beasts rampaged through the Be’eri kibbutz near Gaza.
The single dad was at home nearby while Emily was on a sleepover with her pal Hila Rotem, 13, and Hila’s mother, Raya, 54.
Tom was trapped in his home’s safe room for 19 hours before he was freed under fire from the terrorists.
The father of three then presumed Emily had been killed, saying she was “better off dead” than in the hands of Hamas.
But 23 days later hopes grew she was still alive when tests showed no sign of her DNA or blood near the scene of her capture.
The bewildered youngster, who turned nine in captivity, was then released back into her overjoyed dad’s arms early on Sunday.
Tom said: “She ran to me and hugged me but she was clearly in a state of shock because she believed I had been kidnapped as well.
“She looked at me as if to say, ‘What are you doing here?’
“It was only then I realised that she had no idea what had happened to the rest of the kibbutz.”
Tom said post-October 7 that we were “grieving for Narkis with my son and daughter and we were grieving for Emily as well”.
He went on: “We presumed she was dead and it was actually a sad but peaceful time.
“I completely believed that she had gone and had a kind of closure and I don’t regret saying that she was better off dead than being kidnapped by these people.”
But he added: “I’m obviously extremely happy and grateful that she’s alive and back in my arms and she was lucky the kidnappers didn’t hit or abuse her.”
Tom revealed Emily had told him she was not – as believed – held in the labyrinth of Hamas terror tunnels dubbed the “Gaza Metro”.
But she instead faced greater danger being moved from one safe house to another at the height of Israel’s revenge blitz on the terror group’s 25-mile-long stronghold.
He said of the Hamas gunmen: “They were shouting ‘yala yala yala’ in Arabic – ‘hurry hurry hurry’ — at my terrified little girl as she ran for her life.
“They made her run from the Israeli army from house to house.
“She was constantly being moved – sometimes under fire – to stay one step ahead of the army.
“She must have been absolutely terrified – an eight-year-old girl being led by strangers from one blown-upof a house to the in the middle of a war zone.
“I said when she was being held that I was horrified by the thought of her spending her ninth birthday in the tunnels under Gaza.
“But the reality of what was happening to her was actually much worse – and I’m glad I didn’t know what she was going through at the time.”
After Emily returned, Tom said she was afraid to raise her voice above a whisper.
He believes she was ordered to keep quiet by the terrorists, fearing their position would be given away.
He said: “When she came back I literally had to put my ear on her lips to hear what she was saying.
“She was a normal happy noisy kid but now she whispers – she was moving her lips with no volume or even air coming out.
“She’s got used to talking like that for the past 50 days and now I guess she can’t stop.
“As soon as she was released the first thing she did was ask for my phone so she could watch a video of her favourite pop star, Beyonce.
“She held the phone a foot from her face and watched but I couldn’t hear any sound.
“When I turned the volume up she turned it back down again because she was scared to make a noise.
“I realised she must have been commanded to be silent for so long she’s still terrified to make a sound.
“It’s still too early for her to talk to us about it but these are the tiny clues we’re seeing that show us what she must have gone through.”
Tom said Emily remains in shock and is being evaluated by child trauma specialists in a hospital near Tel Aviv.
He told how she was returned to him in the same Donald Duck Disney pyjamas – her favourites – that she had worn on her sleepover.
He said she wants to keep them, even though they smelled “pretty ripe”, but insisted he bin all the clothes given to her by Hamas.
Tom added: “At the moment she’s still in shock and doesn’t even want to use the word ‘Gaza’.
“She’s asked us to call it just ‘The Box’ – because the whole of Gaza was just a series of boxes to her as she was moved from one building to the next.”
Tom fought back tears as he told how she was immediately put on a course of vitamins to boost her nervous system.
He said: “She had these lovely chubby round cheeks but now she looks chiselled, like me, with high cheekbones.
“She’s lost at least half a stone and the hospital have given her multivitamins with a big focus on vitamin B1, which they say is the most important one.
“She must have been kept in the dark because she’s pale – I have never seen her so white.
“It emphasises her big blue eyes because she lost all the weight – and when she was first handed over the sparkle in her eyes had gone.
“They were very glassy as she was so shocked, so traumatised.
“But slowly but surely life is coming back to her – and it’s my job now to make sure that happens.”
Tom travelled to Israel three decades ago to volunteer on a kibbutz near Gaza.
He had two children Aiden, 29, and Natali, 26, with wife Narkis before they split.
He then had Emily with new partner Liat, who died of breast cancer when the little girl was two.
The former printing plant worker is now homeless but dreams of returning to once-idyllic Be’eri kibbutz when the threat is over.
For now though, his whole focus is on Emily.
He said: “She’s so hungry she’s eating like a horse now.
“Her favourite is sushi and salmon and chocolate and cheesecake and she’s slowly getting better.
“I know now I’m going to become an overprotective dad and still can’t bear to let her out of my sight.
“But the last thing I would ever want is for her to feel trapped or threatened in any way again.
“But that cannot happen until Hamas are utterly destroyed so we must carry on fighting – and fighting for all the hostages to be free.”
Emily’s ninth birthday passed while she was held on November 17 but Tom said she is not yet strong enough for a party.
The Sun yesterday handed the doting dad a giant teddy for the youngster and a birthday balloon.
Emily’s kidnapped pal Hila came back to Israel alongside her – but their captors cruelly kept her mum Raya, in breach of the terms of the hostage deal with Israel.
Hila celebrated her 13th birthday on Monday – and both girls were given cakes and plates of sushi.
But Raya’s continuing ordeal cast a shadow over the celebrations as she remained among nearly 200 innocent captives held.
Tom called for her release last night as more hostages were freed.
He said: “Hila’s mum was supposed to be with her at her 13th party but she wasn’t.
“Raya, Hila and Emily were together for 50 days – thank God – and Raya was looking after Emily like she was her own child.
“Then two days before the release they separated Raya from her own daughter and mine.
“I have no idea why they would do that – it’s just more psychological pain and cruelty.
“Can you imagine the terror of Raya?
“She would be thinking, ‘Why am I being taken away now? Am I going to be shot?’ and Hila thinking the same thing.
“I’m seeing kids running around the hotels we have been taken to orphaned with no parents, I’m seeing parents who’ve lost their kids.
“We’re all devastated and grieving for each other – but we can only hope for a better.”
Meanwhile, desperate relatives of the two youngest hostages in Gaza blasted their kidnappers yesterday – after learning the pair were not on last night’s list to be freed.
Ariel Bibas, four, and his ten-month-old brother Kfir were abductedseparately from their home in Kibbutz Nir Oz.
Their aunt Ofri Bibas said the delay was part of Hamas’s “psychological warfare”.
She added: “The last four days since the start of the truce have been a big nightmare.
“I hope they’re not holding them as a trophy.”
Thirty children have been released while ten are still in captivity.
Ofri said: “We don’t know where they’ve been held.
“From what we know, they are kept underground.
“Everybody who is involved in this negotiation and this deal should do whatever they could to include the Bibas.”
Israeli supporters last night released thousands of orange balloons in Tel Aviv in support of the pair, who have bright ginger hair.
It came as ten more hostages – reported to be a girl and nine women – were being transferred to Israel last night.
The ceasefire was still holding despite two explosions in northern Gaza which injured Israeli troops.
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Cute! Footage from Monday shows three Israeli siblings being reunited with their pet dog in Petah Tikva, Israel, after they were released from Hamas captivity on Sunday. The three siblings were held by Hamas since October 7. pic.twitter.com/zHwmUm4qYW
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