Hamas releases Israeli hostage video

The video purportedly shows Avraham “Avera” Mengistu being held captive in the Islamist-run Gaza Strip.

By Erin Viner

The video shows a man identified by Hamas as the Israeli civilian sitting in front of a blank wall and speaking for about 10 seconds, asking Israel for help. While it was undated, mention was made of new sworn-in IDF Chief of Staff Lieutenant General Herzi Halevi  – who officially assumed his post yesterday.

No details on the captive’s condition were provided.

The images are the first to be shown since Mengistu disappeared. According to his family, the now 36-year-old suffers from mental health issues and had stopped taking his medication just weeks before crossing into Gaza on his own accord on 7 September 2014.

Mengistu family members were cited in local press as confirming this was the first time they have seen him since his capture.

After undergoing interrogation by Hamas, he has been held hostage since that time. The footage appears to be part of Hamas’ efforts to pressure Jerusalem into making an exchange for Palestinians incarcerated in Israeli prisons.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu issued a statement today identifying the hostage in the video appealing for help as Mengistu.

“Yesterday we received confirmation of what we knew this whole time, that Avera is alive,” Netanyahu said, adding, “This is a young man, not in good health and the responsibility of his fate lies entirely on Hamas.”

The Prime Minister’s Office had previously underscored that, “Israel is investing all its resources and efforts to bring its captured and missing boys home.”

Last June, Hamas distributed a psychological warfare video purporting to show a second Israeli civilian, Hisham al-Sayed being held captive after also crossing over into Gaza willingly for unknown reasons.

In addition to the two civilians, Hamas is also holding captive the remains of two deceased IDF soldiers. IDF Sergeant First Class Oron Shaul and  Second Lieutenant Hadar Goldin were killed in action during Israel’s 2014 Operation Protective Edge conflict with Gaza. Their bodies were seized by the Islamist Hamas terror group for use as “bargaining chips” in any future prisoner swaps.

In the past, Israel has engaged in prisoner swaps with Hamas, most notably in 2011, for IDF soldier Gilad Shalit, who had been forcibly abducted by Palestinian terrorists in a cross-border raid in 2006. He was finally freed after five years of captivity in exchange for 1,027 Palestinians held in Israeli jails.