The families of the two Israeli civilians missing in Gaza, Hisham al-Sayed and Avraham (Abera) Mengistu, responded today to the Israel Defense Forces assessment that the two men are alive and held by Hamas.
Sha’aban al-Sayed, father of Hisham, an Israeli civilian who entered Gaza over three years ago, says that thanks to family ties he knows that his son is alive. Ilan Mengistu, brother of Abera, who entered Gaza four years ago, says that as far as they know, Abera is also alive.
“The reports in the last few days [that the two are alive, according to military sources] give us hope. The presumption is that Abera is alive. The military observers have evidence of this and fortunately there is no other information that contradicts this, but unfortunately we have no real sign of life right now,” Ilan Mengistu said.
Al-Sayed said that his son had entered Gaza twice prior to this and was released by Hamas both times. “Hamas has changed, it’s not the same as it was before. Before, they examined him and saw that he wasn’t healthy and let him go. We call on Hamas to do this again.” Then he added in Arabic: “He is not a soldier and has nothing to do with the Israeli army.”
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“We are following the reports about a possible arrangement [with Hamas] and this is an opportunity the government mustn’t miss. In all our meetings with the defense minister and prime minister, we gave the message that there cannot be unfairness regarding their humanitarian rights,” Mengistu said.
The two spoke at a press conference in Jerusalem to launch an international campaign for their relatives’ release.
Ran Goldstein, director of Physicians for Human Rights, also spoke at the event and called on Hamas to release the men without conditions. “As a human rights organization, we regularly go into Gaza with medical delegations. Up to now we have not been able to obtain any information on their condition. We’ve been told that they are alive but we haven’t received any real evidence of this. Hamas’ desire to get something in return for their release is unacceptable. They are both civilians, they both suffer from mental illness and we call on every player in the international community to act on their behalf so that they may return home,” Goldstein said.