Israeli President Reuven Rivlin said the Mengisto family had feared for Avraham’s safety before he crossed into Gaza, and that he should not be considered an asset – a reference to his possible use in a prisoner swap.
In indirect negotiations for the return of remains of two Israel soldiers killed during the 2014 Gaza war, Hamas is demanding the release of Palestinians freed in the Shalit deal and late returned to prison for what Israel said were new offences.
The probe, ordered in January, was set up to establish whether there was enough evidence for a full-blown war crimes investigation into last year’s conflict in the Gaza Strip between Israel and the Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas. On at least three occasions, his family reported his disappearances to police; social services in Ashkelon were aware of the situation.
The statement also said: “The defence establishment is also dealing with an additional case of an Israeli Arab who is being held in Gaza“.
Israel has taken unusual precautions to ensure its citizens, especially its soldiers, are not apprehended by Hamas in Gaza and taken hostage, after the 50-day war between Gaza and Israel in 2014.
A military source told the Tazpit News Agency that Israel would continue to make efforts to put an end to the case and ensure the return of their citizen. A senior Palestinian official based in the Gaza Strip denied that the group was holding Mengistu. “We consider Hamas responsible for their fate and demand their return”.
Prime Minister Netanyahu warned “all enemies of Israel- Hamas, Hezbollah, Iran and IS (the Islamic State group) – that those who attempt to attack our people will pay with their blood ” during a similar anniversary celebration at the beginning of the week. “Then you have the second option, which is to point the finger at Jerusalem and say ‘You aren’t right, you let him cross and did not respond to letters.'”.
Israeli soldiers, the document concluded, did not exercise enough caution when they fought in built-up areas in Gaza.
Mashaal’s comments followed several hints from Hamas that it was holding Mengistu and another live Israeli captive, in addition to the bodies of Goldin and Shaul. He also said he has been in contact with the Mengistu family.
Both men appear to have crossed into Gaza of their own volition and were described by acquaintances and family as unstable. Hamas and other militant groups launched thousands of rockets and mortar bombs out of the enclave into Israel.
But there were no threats of action against Hamas, in contrast to a bruising military campaign that followed Hamas’ capture of Schalit in a 2006 cross-border raid – or more recently, the arrests of scores of Hamas supporters after the deadly abductions of three Israeli teens in the West Bank past year.
“Yesterday I spoke with the parents and siblings of Avraham Mengistu and I told them that… we have spared no effort to return him to Israel”, Netanyahu said, adding that he expected the worldwide community to “issue a clear call” for the men’s release.