Mia Leimberg is freed, hugging her shih tzu Bella to her chest
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A SCHOOLGIRL hostage of terror group Hamas kept her beloved dog with her as she was taken into Gaza — sharing her ­meagre rations with the pet for 53 days.

Mia Leimberg clutched shih tzu Bella to her chest as she was bundled into the back of a pick-up truck, with pooch-hating gunmen assuming the ball of fur was a cuddly toy.

Mia Leimberg is freed, hugging her shih tzu Bella to her chest

Mia Leimberg is freed, hugging her shih tzu Bella to her chest
Brave Mia holds on tight to Bella and stares at a Hamas thug

Brave Mia holds on tight to Bella and stares at a Hamas thug
Mia, Gabriela and Clara can smile again

Mia, Gabriela and Clara can smile again

Bella was spotted only when 17-year-old Mia, her mum Gabriela, 59, and aunt Clara Merman, 63, arrived at the terrorists’ lair.

They threatened to kill or dump the dog, but brave Mia insisted they should not be parted.

Yesterday Mia’s cousin Geffen Marman, 36, told The Sun on Sunday: “Mia and Bella are inseparable. The kidnappers had broken into the family safe room and put them in a pick-up truck, but Mia is very determined and held Bella close as they were driven to Gaza.

“Bella is five-years-old but she’s tiny and the terrorists thought Mia was clinging to a toy.

“It was only when they reached Gaza they saw the dog moving and a big arguments started about what they were going to do.

“Mia still wouldn’t let go and they eventually agreed to let her keep her.

“The family were taken to a place which I can’t identify. I can’t say whether it was above or below the ground — but I can say they could hear the bombs falling.

“They were terrified, and Bella was a great comfort.

“Hamas gave them very little to eat — mainly rice and pitta bread — but everything was shared with Bella and somehow they got through it.”

Bella’s survival is all the more surprising as Islamist fanatics believe dogs are “impure”.

Geffen said Bella initially barked and whimpered as Hamas hordes rampaged through the Nir Yitzhak kibbutz, three miles from Gaza, on October 7.

Family members thought the pet had bolted until she appeared in Mia’s arms on Tuesday during hostage releases in the seven-day truce.

Geffen said: “We screamed when we saw them on TV. We couldn’t believe it when my mum and Mia and her mum appeared — and Bella was there as well.

“Then just as they were leaving one of the terrorists stepped forward and started saying something to Mia in Arabic about the dog.

“Mia doesn’t speak Arabic and didn’t understand what he was saying but there was no way she was going to let Bella go after all they had been through together.”

The trio remained too traumatised to speak of their ordeal yesterday.

But they were praying for the release of Clara’s partner Luis Har, 70, and her brother, 60-year-old Fernando Merman.

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