Israel admits two citizens being held in Gaza

Israel admits two citizens being held in Gaza
Israel's defence ministry announces two of its citizens are being held in Gaza, including one allegedly detained last year by Hamas.
2 min read
09 July, 2015
The Gaza Strip is ruled by Hamas [Anadolu].
Two Israelis are being held captive in the blockaded Gaza Strip, including one detained by Hamas after crossing into the territory last year, Israel's defence ministry said on Thursday.

The ministry said that "according to credible intelligence" Avraham Mengistu, an Israeli of Ethiopian descent, "is being held against his will by Hamas in Gaza".

"Furthermore, the defence establishment is currently dealing with an additional case of an Israeli Arab also being held in Gaza," it said in a statement, without providing further details.

Hamas had not yet commented on the case.

The statement said that Mengistu slipped into the Palestinian territory ruled by Hamas on September 7, 2014, shortly after the end of Israel's 50-day war on the Palestinian Gaza Strip.

The demarcation of Gaza territory is clear: a fence, Israeli military watchtowers and a lethal buffer zone separates the Gaza Strip from Israel. It is unlikely Mengistu's crossing into Gaza was an accident, say analysts. His intentions remain unclear.

"Israel has appealed to international and regional interlocutors to demand his immediate release and verify his well-being," the statement added.

The case had previously been kept quiet due to an Israeli gag order, which was lifted on Thursday by a judge in the southern city of Ashkelon, where Mengistu lived, local media reported.

The reports said that information on the unidentified Palestinian citizen of Israel was still under a gag order.

Israeli media said that authorities had decided to allow the story to be released in the hope it might spur negotiations for their release.

In 2006, Gaza militants captured Israeli soldier Corporal Gilad Shalit and held him for five years before freeing him in exchange for more than 1,000 Palestinian prisoners.

Israel holds around 6,500 Palestinian detainees, including children, in its prisons.