The Israeli spotted jumping the border into Gaza two days ago was identified yesterday as Juma Ibrahim Abu Anima, 19, of Khashem Zaneh, a Bedouin village in southern Israel that has never been recognized by the government.
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A relative said that Anima had been in a “difficult mental state” for a few years, refusing to engage in study or work. His condition seemed to improve recently after he received “spiritual treatment” from local sheikhs and religious figures, the relative said. The family supports itself through raising sheep and other farming, and had pressed him to do so as well.
“He was irritable and didn’t want to work,” the relative said. “His brothers were pressuring him so he decided to leave. He’s not familiar with any other setting,” the relative said, adding that two days ago, while herding sheep, Anima approached the Gaza border fence and crossed into the Islamist Hamas controlled enclave.
Anima’s brother Khaled confirmed the missing Israeli’s emotional problems, adding that he had recently experienced distress.
Anima left home, purportedly to tend sheep, then apparently decided to cross into Gaza, his brother said.
Family members said they have not been contacted neither by Israeli or Palestinian officials. “We are being fed mostly rumors and general information,” Khaled Abu Anima said. “We have no confirmation that my brother is in fact inside the enclave’s territory.”
“We’ve tried to contact all kinds of officials in the enclave but we haven’t received any information and Hamas officials have also not released any statement,” he added.
On Tuesday afternoon, Israel Defense Forces surveillance cameras caught Amina heading for the Gazan border. Troops rushed to the area but failed to stop him from crossing the border. He is seen on camera climbing over the border fence into the strip.
Security forces are checking whether he crossed the border for a specific reason or in coordination with anyone in the Gaza Strip.
The IDF assumes that when a person crosses the border, he will be caught on the other side. At this stage Hamas, the strip’s ruler, has given no sign of having Anima in its custody.
Relatives said this was Anima’s first attempt to enter Gaza and they never imagined he would do such a thing. The family’s priority is to convey the message that he suffers from psychological problems, and to urge that efforts be made to locate him and have him sent back to Israel.
Referring to two other Israelis who crossed into Gaza over the past two years and have not yet returned, Khaled Abu Anima added: “We are familiar with the story of Hisham al-Sayed and Avraham [Abera] Mengisto, who are being held in Gaza, and I hope that theirs isn’t my brother’s fate.”
The authorities in Gaza need to know, he said, that his brother is “a very simple person who is emotionally disturbed and is not an [army] officer or soldier who could provide information or be an important asset for them.”
They should release him, Anima’s brother said.