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Israeli Teen Speaks of Hamas Captivity With Her Dog in Gaza

Mia Leimberg, a hostage who was abducted by Hamas during the Oct. 7 attack on Israel, holds her dog Bella while she and others are handed over by Hamas terrorists to members of the International Committee of the Red Cross, as part of a hostages-prisoners swap deal between Hamas and Israel amid a temporary truce, in an unknown location in Gaza, in this screengrab taken from video released Nov. 28, 2023. Photo: Hamas Military Wing/Handout via REUTERS

Mia Leimberg emerged from nearly two months’ captivity in Gaza with Bella, her Shih Tzu, in her arms, one of the most astonishing moments of a week-long ceasefire between Israel and Hamas that ended last Friday.

“When we were there we had to feed her our leftovers — yeah I’m talking about you Bella,” said Mia, 17, looking down at the small white dog in her arms. “And we had to make sure that she doesn’t run wild where we were. We had to keep her so that she doesn’t go exploring and annoy anybody there.”

Mia and her mother Gabriela were visiting family in Kibbutz Nir Yitzhak when they were taken hostage by Hamas during its Oct. 7 killing spree through southern Israel, sparking the war with the Palestinian terrorist group in Gaza.

The mother, daughter, aunt, and dog were set free as part of a swap for Palestinian prisoners, but her uncle and her aunt’s partner remain in captivity.

“It was difficult. I held her [Bella] all the way there. It was an extra four kilos. And I’m just lucky enough that I managed to keep her through that whole situation and bring her back,” Mia said from her home in Jerusalem in her first media interview.

Descriptions of Hamas captivity have started to emerge with the return home of some of the Israeli hostages. Some have described ‘suffocating’ quarters, with no access to medication and dwindling food. Children have recounted being ordered always to keep quiet.

“Luckily for me Bella is unlike all the other small dogs that I personally know, she is rather quiet, unless when she is playing or mad,” she said. “If they would have seen her as a bother I think they would not have let me keep her, in all honesty.”

‘SHE WAS A HUGE HELP TO ME’

Many pets were killed or went missing during Hamas‘ rampage.

Mia’s father Moshe said they searched for Bella during the weeks of his family’s captivity. The day of their release, he was surprised to hear she came out holding the dog.

He described in more detail what his daughter went through to keep Bella. “She was worried that something would happen to the dog if she left her behind,” he said.

Mia hid the dog under her pajamas as they were loaded into a vehicle that drove out of the kibbutz.

“Then they took them to tunnels … she had the dog with her the whole time,” he said. “When they came out of the tunnel they had to climb up a ladder, that’s when the Hamas people noticed that this was not a doll, it was a living, breathing dog.”

“A bit of an argument ensued, and it was decided to let her keep the dog instead of leave it behind.”

The captives cleaned up after the dog to prevent bad smells.

“She was very determined to bring the dog back, and one of the expressions that she has now, about the dog, is ‘I love you to Gaza and back.’”

More than 100 hostages were freed in the truce that ended on Friday. Since then fighting has resumed with Israel pursuing its military offensive against Hamas in Gaza.

Mia described how captivity was a tough experience that “will take quite the while to, like, sink in.” But having Bella helped. “She was a huge help to me. She kept me busy. She was moral support.”

She said they will fight for the freedom of the other hostages, including her uncle and aunt’s partner.

“We miss them every day and it feels wrong being here without them,” she said. “As much as I am happy to be back, we’re still not done.”

The post Israeli Teen Speaks of Hamas Captivity With Her Dog in Gaza first appeared on Algemeiner.com.

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Russia Extends Invitation to Palestinian Factions for Talks in Moscow

Russian President Vladimir Putin delivers a speech during a session of the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum. Photo: Reuters/Maxim Shemetov

i24 NewsRussia has extended invitations to various Palestinian factions, including Hamas and Fatah, for discussions on the Israel-Hamas conflict and broader issues in the Middle East.

Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov announced the initiative on Friday, highlighting Moscow’s desire to engage with all major players in the region amid heightened tensions.

The invitation included a dozen Palestinian groups and is slated for “inter-Palestinian” talks scheduled to commence on February 29.

Bogdanov, serving as President Vladimir Putin’s special envoy for the Middle East, emphasized the inclusivity of the invitation, stating, “We invited all Palestinian representatives — all political forces that have their positions in different countries, including Syria, Lebanon, and other countries in the region.”

Among the invitees are Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, alongside representatives of Fatah and the broader Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO).

The invitation comes at a critical juncture as the Israel-Hamas conflict continues to escalate, drawing international attention and concern. Russia’s proactive stance in convening discussions reflects its growing criticism of Israel and its Western allies, underscoring Moscow’s efforts to assert its influence in the region.

The post Russia Extends Invitation to Palestinian Factions for Talks in Moscow first appeared on Algemeiner.com.

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Netanyahu: Those Who Want us to Desist from Rafah Op Are Telling Us to Lose

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during a press conference with Defense Minister Yoav Gallant and Cabinet Minister Benny Gantz in the Kirya military base in Tel Aviv, Israel, Oct. 28, 2023. Photo: ABIR SULTAN POOL/Pool via REUTERS

i24 NewsHamas drops its “delusional” demands, productive hostage talks could begin, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Saturday, stressing Israel would not agree to the terror group’s current demands.

WATCH: PM Netanyahu delivers a statement after Hamas suspended negotiations pic.twitter.com/nxISPb4JUm

— i24NEWS English (@i24NEWS_EN) February 17, 2024

“I insist that Hamas should abandon its delusional demands – and when it does, we will be able to move forward,” Netanyahu said in a statement live on TV.

“Those who want us to desist from the Rafah operation,” the leader said in an apparent reference to the U.S. administration of President Joe Biden, “are telling us we should lose. We won’t be dictated to.”

The post Netanyahu: Those Who Want us to Desist from Rafah Op Are Telling Us to Lose first appeared on Algemeiner.com.

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Iran Unveils New Air Defense Weaponry

Iran’s Defense Minister Brigadier General Mohammad-Reza Ashtiani speaks at a press conference during the unveiling of a new surface-to-surface 4th generation Khorramshahr ballistic missile. Photo: Reuters/West Asia News Agency

i24 NewsIran demonstrated new weaponry on Saturday, including what it said was the locally made Arman anti-ballistic missile system and the Azarakhsh low-altitude air defense system, said the official IRNA news agency. Saturday’s unveiling ceremony of the two vehicle-mounted systems was held in the presence of Iranian Defense Minister Brigadier General Mohammad Reza Ashtiani.

“With the entry of new systems into the country’s defense network, the air defense capability of the Islamic Republic of Iran will increase significantly,” said IRNA.

Video of the new Azarakhsh SHORAD engaging a target drone

It’s radar has a detection range of 50km, with 25km for it’s EO/IR suite https://t.co/cZSCk4AmZj pic.twitter.com/7gEnZh0uef

— Iran Defense|نیروهای مسلح جمهوری اسلامی ایران (@IranDefense) February 17, 2024

The Arman missile system is said to be able to “simultaneously confront six targets at a distance of 120 to 180 km,” while the Azarakhsh missile system “can identify and destroy targets up to a range of 50 km with four ready-to-fire missiles.”

The announcement comes amid tensions across the Middle East, with Yemen’s Iran-backed Houthis attacking vessels linked to the United States, UK and Israel in the Red Sea in a show of solidarity with the Gaza Strip.

Iran unveils domestically-manufactured Arman anti-ballistic missile and Azarakhsh low-altitude air defense system https://t.co/69YBsGqT0F pic.twitter.com/PVWlw0sIuj

— Press TV (@PressTV) February 17, 2024

The U.S. and its allies in the Middle East are concerned with Iran’s growing role at the international global arms market, The Wall Street Journal said on Friday. The transformation of the industry, boosted by Russia’s “purchase of thousands of drones that altered the battlefield in Ukraine, has helped Tehran scale up its support of militia allies in Middle East conflicts,” read the report.

The post Iran Unveils New Air Defense Weaponry first appeared on Algemeiner.com.

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