‘I dreamt we came home’ says Israeli girl released from Gaza

PETAH TIKVA, Israel (Reuters) – Released with her mother and little sister after almost 50 days in captivity in Gaza, four-year-old Raz Asher sits in her father’s arms on a hospital bed in Israel.

“I dreamt we came home,” she tells her father, Yoni. “Now the dream came true,” he replied.

Raz was released with her two-year-old sister, Aviv and mother Doron on Friday, in the first stage of the Israel-Hamas hostage deal that is set to see another 14 hostages, women and children, released on Saturday.

If the deal goes through as intended, it will see the release of 50 Israeli hostages in return for 150 Palestinian women and teenage prisoners during four days, in which fighting in the Gaza Strip is paused and aid pumped into the enclave.

Around 240 people, civilians and soldiers, as well as some foreign nationals, were abducted to Gaza during Hamas’ deadly Oct 7 attack.

Yoni Asher had stayed home on that day, in central Israel, when his wife took the two girls to visit their grandmother in Kibbutz Nir Oz, near the border with Gaza. As the attack unfolded he eventually lost phone contact with his wife.

He later saw a video on social media of her and his two little girls being taken to Gaza on a vehicle, gunmen around them.

“We’ll be going home soon,” Yoni told Raz in the footage released by Schneider Children’s Medical Center, the hospital treating the children, who are all in relatively good condition, its staff said.

(Reporting by Rami Amichay in Petah Tikva and Maayan Lubell in Jerusalem, Editing by Alexandra Hudson)