(Miriam Alster/Flash90) (Miriam Alster/Flash90)
Avraham Mengistu's brother demands Hamas release him

Mental illness may have played a role in the decision of two Israeli citizens to cross into Gaza. Hamas claims it does not have one of the two Israelis in custody.

Strange new details have emerged in the case of the two Israelis who crossed into Gaza of their own volition and are believed to be held by Hamas. The family of Avraham Mengistu has expressed dissatisfaction with the government’s handling of his disappearance. Details on the second Israeli citizen, a Bedouin, have still not been made public. Several high-ranking public officials have stated that they were kept completely in the dark.

“I turn to Hamas to consider my brother’s condition and to return him immediately,” Ilan Mengistu, Avraham’s brother, told press outside of the family’s home. Ilan indicated that, “My brother is unwell,” without elaborating. However, security sources have told Israeli media that Mengistu suffers from poor mental health. Ynet reports that the 28-year-old Ashkelon residents has a history of wandering off without telling his family where he is going.

Mengistu’s family is dissatisfied with how Avraham’s case has been handled. “The family chose until now to remain discreet in order to give the Israeli authorities time to negotiate my brother’s release,” said Ilan. However, the oldest son, Yalo, told Haaretz, “We’re sick of it. We want to go public with the story.” He told the newspaper that the IDF failed to brief the family in the two weeks after Avraham’s disappearance.

Gaza border IDF

The IDF was unable to stop Mengistu from entering Gaza. (Rahim Khatib/Flash90)

Hamas, however, claims that it released Megistu, who intended to cross Egypt to reach Ethiopia, where he was born. “According to Hamas, they’re not holding him and this has been checked by the government, the Hamas police and the al-Qassam Brigade,” Israeli activist Gershon Baskin said. Hamas is refusing to negotiate with Israel on the return of the bodies of two IDF soldiers killed in Operation Protective Edge.

Almost no information has been made public about the second Israeli in Gaza, a Bedouin from Hura. However, a security source from COGAT told Israeli media that he is a young man with psychological issues who has a history of crossing into Gaza, Egypt, and Jordan.

Senior government officials expressed shock that they were not informed about the missing Israelis. Avigdor Liberman, who served as foreign minister during one of the disappearances, told reporters, “While I was foreign minister and a member of the cabinet, I wasn’t updated [on the situation].” Knesset Defense Committee Chairman Tzachi Hanegbi similarly told Israeli radio, “I was astounded. I read about it in Ynet this morning, I called the committee manager, I asked him whether the committee was informed.”

By: Sara Abramowicz, United with Israel 

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