Family of Avera Mengistu pleads his case at White House

Relatives of Israeli held in Gaza meet US special envoy to the region Jason Greenblatt to discuss efforts to secure his release

Avraham Avera Mengistu, who is believed to be held captive by Hamas in the Gaza Strip. (Facebook)
Avraham Avera Mengistu, who is believed to be held captive by Hamas in the Gaza Strip. (Facebook)

The family of an Israeli man believed held by the Hamas terror group in the Gaza Strip met on Wednesday with US special envoy to the Middle East Jason Greenblatt to discuss efforts for releasing their loved one.

Avraham Avera Mengistu’s brother Ilan and mother Agurnesh conferred with Greenblatt at the White House.

“Today I welcomed the family of Avera Mengistu to the White House,” Greenblatt tweeted. “Avera has been held by Hamas in Gaza for over 1,000 days since he disappeared in September, 2014. It is outrageous that Hamas will not let him return home or communicate with his family.”

Greenblatt also tweeted a prayer, in Hebrew and English, imploring God to give strength to Mengistu and return him to his family

Hamas is thought to be holding two Israeli citizens — Mengistu and Hisham al-Sayed. There are two other Israeli citizens who crossed into Gaza and are still there. One of them, Jumaa Abu Ghanima, was initially thought to have been a third captive, but there is now suspicion that he has joined Hamas.

Mengistu, al-Sayed and Abu Ghanima are all believed to suffer from psychological disorders. The fourth, whose name has not been released, is suspected of crossing into Gaza last year in order to be with his family who lives there.

In addition, Hamas has the remains of two IDF soldiers killed during the 2014 summer war, Lt. Hadar Goldin and Sgt. Oron Shaul.

The Mengistu family flew to the US a week ago to seek support for their son’s release, including at the United Nations and the annual conference of the Jewish Federations of North America.

The issue of captives held in Gaza is fraught with controversy in Israel, especially after the hotly contested deal to secure the release of captured Israeli soldier, Gilad Shalit in 2011, which saw over 1,000 convicted terrorists released from Israeli prisons.

Last month Ilan Mengistu told the Times of Israel that the family has had a hard time raising awareness about the plight of Avera, who has a history of mental illness.

Ilan credited Israel’s apathy, in part, to the fact that Avera comes from the country’s Ethiopian community and that his parents do not speak fluent Hebrew. But he said that a more significant roadblock in getting word out is the family’s low socioeconomic status.

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