Mia Leiberg appeared after almost two months hostage in Gaza holding Bella, her Shih Tzu, in one of her most amazing moments ceasefire between Israel and Hamas which lasted a week and ended last Friday.
“When we were there, we had to feed her our leftovers – yes, I’m talking about Bella”, said 17-year-old Mia, looking at the small white dog in her arms. “And we had to make sure that it didn’t go out of control where we were. We had to keep her so she wouldn’t go exploring and disturb someone there.”
Mia and her mother, Gabriela, were visiting relatives at Kibbutz Nir Yitzhak when hostages were taken from the Hamas during the deadly October 7 attack in southern Israel that sparked the war with the Islamist Palestinian group in Gaza.
The mother, daughter, aunt and dog were released in a Palestinian prisoner exchange, but her uncle and her aunt’s partner remain hostages.
“It was difficult. I was holding her (Bella) all the way there. That was four extra pounds. And I was lucky enough to be able to keep her throughout this situation and bring her back,” Mia said from her home in Jerusalem, in her first media interview.
Descriptions of their hostage-taking by Hamas have begun to emerge after the return of some of the Israeli hostages. Some have described “suffocating” spaces, no access to medicine and little food. Children narrated that the they ordered not to speak at all.
“Fortunately for me, Bella is not like the other little dogs I know, she is rather quiet except when he’s playing or going crazy,” he said. “If they had considered her a nuisance, I honestly believe they wouldn’t have let me keep her.”
“It was a huge help for me”
Many pets were killed or missing after the Hamas attack. Mia’s father, Moshe, said they had been searching for Bella during the weeks his family was held hostage. On the day of their release, he was surprised to learn that his daughter appeared holding the dog.
He described in more detail what his daughter went through to keep Bella. “He was worried something would happen to the dog if he left it behind,” she said.
Mia hid Bella down in her pajamas when he was loaded into a vehicle that left the kibbutz.
“Then they took them to the tunnels … she had the dog with her the whole time,” he said. “When they came out of the tunnel, they had to climb a ladder, that’s when the Hamas people noticed that it wasn’t a doll, it was a live dog.”
“They talked to each other and it was decided to let her keep the dog instead of leaving it behind.” The hostages took care of cleaning up the dirt of the dog so that there are no bad smells.
“She was very determined to get the dog back and one of the expressions she now uses for Bella is ‘I love you to Gaza and back‘”. Mia described how being held hostage was a difficult experience, “where, after a while, you kind of sink into it.” But having Bella helped. “It was a huge help for me. It kept me busy. It was moral support». She added that they will fight for the freedom of the other hostages, which include her uncle and her aunt’s partner.
“We miss them every day, it feels wrong to be here without them,” he said. “However glad I am when I came back, we’re not done yet».
Source: News Beast
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