Mother of Israeli Held in Gaza Says Al Jazeera Recording 'Is Not My Son'

Media outlets speculate the man heard in the recording is Avera Mengistu, but its authenticity remains unclear. 'I hope to see him soon,' says his mother amid reports of potential Israel-Hamas prisoner exchange talks

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Avera Mengistu, second from right, an Israeli civilian who crossed into Gaza over six years ago.
Avera Mengistu, second from right, an Israeli civilian who crossed into Gaza over six years ago. Credit: Mengistu family

Al Jazeera released Sunday a recording in which a man is heard saying "I'm an Israeli soldier held captive" by Hamas, which Israeli and foreign media outlets say might be the voice of Israeli civilian Avera Mengistu held captive in Gaza by the militant organization, a claim that Mengistu's mother denies. 

The authenticity of the recording remains unknown.

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The bodies of two Israeli soldiers are held by Hamas in the Gaza Strip, Hadar Goldin and Oron Shaul, as well as two Israeli civilians, Hisham al-Sayed and Avera Mengistu.

"I'm an Israeli soldier held captive by the Iz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades [Hamas' armed wing]," the man is heard saying, speaking with an Ethiopian accent. Mengistu is of Ethiopian descent.

Screenshot of Al Jazeera's recording of alleged Israeli prisoner in Gaza, June 2021.Credit: Al Jazeera

"I wonder and hope that the State of Israel still exists. If it does, I wonder again if the country's leaders are thinking about the captives, worry about them and are working to release them," the man is heard saying.

"I die every day all over again," the man goes on to say, adding that he still has some hope to reunite with his family soon. "Please help," he says in the end of the recording.

The voice recording was published as part of Al Jazeera's investigative reporting series in an episode which dealt with the Israeli citizens who are been held captive by Hamas in the Gaza Strip.

Agernesh Mengistu, Avera's mother, denies that the recording is of her son. "I've heard the recording just like everyone else, and I can say with certainty that it is not my son, that it is not his voice," she said. "I am waiting for my son and hope to see him soon, just as I have been promised all along." 

Meanwhile, the Hamas-affiliated news agency Shehab published old photos of Gilad Shalit, a former Israel Defense Forces soldier, who was held captive in Gaza from June 2006 to October 2011. In the photos Shalit is seen playing ball, reading and eating.

Yaron Blum, the coordinator for POWs and MIAs and a former member of the Shin Bet security service, said after the recording was released, that Hamas is in "distress after the severe blows it sustained" during the latest flare up in Gaza.

Hamas is trying to employ "cheap and transparent manipulation. Israel is perfectly aware of the situation of [soldiers] Hadar Goldin and Oron Shaul, may they rest in peace, and of the two Israeli civilians Hisham al-Sayed and Avera Mengistu who crossed the border to Gaza.

"The State of Israel will continue working with determination and responsibility to return the boys and the civilians," Blum said.  

Last week, Hamas' political leader Yahya Sinwar said that the militant organization is ready to immediately engage in negotiations to return Israeli civilians and bodies of soldiers held captive in Gaza.

Sinwar said there had been recent progress on the issue, but that it stopped because of political instability in Israel. "In the coming days we will see discussion in Cairo" in an effort to come to agreements, he said. He also advised people to "[r]emember the number 1,111. You'll find out later on what it means."

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