UN Chief Ban Ki-moon called on Gazans to help bring about the release of the two Israeli citizens assumed to be held by Hamas in Gaza. 

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Monday called on Palestinians in Gaza with information on the two missing Israeli civilians, who are assumed to be alive in Gaza, to provide information about their possible whereabouts and conditions.

UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said the secretary-general also called for prompt action to facilitate their safe return to their families.

Israeli defense officials identified one of the men as Avraham Mengistu, an Israeli of Ethiopian descent in his late 20’s who disappeared after he  entered Gaza on September 7, 2014, two weeks after the end of Operation Protective Edge against the Hamas terror organization, the Palestinian faction that controls Gaza. His family said that he is mentally unhealthy, and has in the past gone missing for extended periods of time.

Avraham Mengistu

Avraham Mengistu. (Courtesy of the Mengistu family via AP)

The second man is a Bedouin citizen from southern Israel whose identify was not disclosed. Israeli officials did not say how long he had been in Gaza. He has entered Gaza and has been returned to Israel several times in the past. A family member told Israeli IDF radio that he too was emotionally unstable.

Dujarric said “the secretary-general underscores the responsibility of all parties to protect and respect the rights of civilians.”

He said the United Nations will continue to closely monitor developments.

Last week’s announcement that the two Israelis are missing brought back bitter memories of the case of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, who was abducted and held captive by Hamas for five years.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said last week he held Hamas, which has ruled Gaza since 2007, responsible for the fate of both men. He said Israel is working to free them.

Israel stressed it views the case as a humanitarian one, and expects Hamas to return the two Israeli citizens, regardless of the state of war between Israel and Hamas.

By: AP and United with Israel Staff

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