Family of Ethiopian Israeli Missing in Gaza Launches Campaign for His Freedom

Activists to demonstrate in front of Hadarim prison when families of Palestinian security prisoners visit, calling for Hamas to release Avera Mengistu, missing since September 2014.

Shirly Seidler
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Avera Mengistu's family, July 9, 2015.
Avera Mengistu's family, July 9, 2015.Credit: Ilan Assayag
Shirly Seidler

The family of an Israeli man missing in the Gaza Strip for the past 10 months has taken its first steps in their campaign to have him freed. Avera Mengistu, a 28-year-old Israeli of Ethiopian origin, has been missing since September 2014 when he left his home in southern Israel and crossed into the besieged costal enclave. Though he has been missing for over 10 months, the Israeli public was kept in the dark due to a court-imposed gag order placed on the case, until it was lifted a month ago. It is not clear what has happened to him, whether Hamas is still holding him and what his condition is.

Mengistu’s family, along with social activists, are expected to demonstrate on Monday in front of the Hadarim Prison in the Sharon, and call for his release. The protest will coincide with the time when families of Palestinian security prisoners visit their relatives. In the first demonstration on Megistu’s behalf since the gag order was lifted last month, the activists will ask the prisoners’ families to pass on a message to Hamas to release him immediately.

This is part of a planned campaign with the slogan: “Humanitarian against humanitarian.” The family has decided to take responsibility for Mengistu’s release without help from the government in order to speed up the process, say sources involved with the family. In addition, they have opened a Facebook page named “Free abera” in order to provide updates on events related to the campaign.

In early July, it was first revealed that two Israeli citizens, Mengistu from Ashkelon and another young man from the Bedouin town of Hura, had crossed the border fence into Gaza and never returned. The Bedouin man crossed into Gaza in April. Since the story was revealed, Hamas has not released any information at all on the two men, and has not even been willing to say whether the organization is still holding them.

No public protests have yet been held on Mengistu’s behalf. This was because his family wanted to “keep a low profile,” said the activists. Preliminary plans for such a campaign were frozen due to the family’s wishes earlier, and only now have they changed their minds, according to the activists.

A photograph Avera Mengistu, 28, from his Facebook page.

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