JERUSALEM (VINnews) — One of the iconic pictures of the hostages being released from Hamas is that of 17-year-old Mia Leimberg, 17, who was seen leaving captivity on Tuesday while carrying her dog. This was when the world – including the Leimberg family itself – found out that the pet was also kidnapped on October 7, together with its owner, her mother and other family members.Join our WhatsApp group
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Before the release, Mia Leimberg’s father Moshe Leimberg had been actively looking for the family’s Shih Tzu named Bella as he wanted the beloved animal to be there for his wife and daughter’s return. “I want Bella to wait for Mia and Gabriela when they get home,” he explained in a Facebook post urging the community to help him find the dog that he believed was missing after Hamas’s attack on Kibbutz Nir Yitzhak.
On October 7, Mia Leimberg, together with her mother Gabriela Leimberg, 59, who live in Jerusalem, visited her aunt Clara Merman, 63, in Nir Yitzhak. On the day of the attack, the three women as well as Clara Merman’s partner Luis Har and her brother, Fernando Merman were kidnapped by Hamas.
Clara Merman, Mia and Gabriela Leimberg were released on the fifth day of ceasefire on Tuesday. Luis Har and Fernando Merman remain in the Gaza Strip. In a stunning video clip released by Hamas, Mia can be seen marching out of the vehicle Hamas had driven her in to the exchange with the Red Cross with both arms wrapped around that fluffy little dog. In the video a terrorist can be seen pointing at the dog in surprise, and Mia, all curly hair and brazen, seems to determinedly tell him — the dog is mine, back off.
Mia was captured on Oct. 7th while still in her pajamas. After the gunfire and explosions started, little Bella was incredibly frightened, and Mia, trying to assuage her fears, held her tight. When the Hamas militants broke into their safe room, they saw a young girl in her pajamas, holding what appeared to be a doll of a dog. They didn’t think much of it, and took the five captives with them into Gaza.
When the kidnappers first saw that doll move a few hours later, and realized it was an actual animal, a fight erupted, but Mia, an “only child who knows exactly what she wants and gets exactly what she wants,” as her cousins affectionately described her, won out.
“It was not easy to keep her,” her aunt said. Mia made sure to clean up quickly after Bella in the bathroom, kept her close, and shared whatever scraps of food she got with the pup. She told her homeroom teacher that Bella didn’t bark there at all.
Yet caring for Bella helped the Leimbergs survive captivity. “The most important thing was that they were together. When a person is with their best friend, the dog, the most loyal, the most beloved, it gives them strength,” her cousin said.