Family of Hamas-held man calls for including him in Turkey deal
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Family of Hamas-held man calls for including him in Turkey deal

‘Did we forget him?’ asks Avraham Abera Mengistu’s brother, urging pressure on Gaza as precondition for detente with Ankara

Agurnesh Mengistu, the mother of Avraham Mengistu, center, seen at a press conference at their home in Ashkelon, after a gag order was lifted over his disappearance in the Gaza Strip, on July 8, 2015. (Flash90)
Agurnesh Mengistu, the mother of Avraham Mengistu, center, seen at a press conference at their home in Ashkelon, after a gag order was lifted over his disappearance in the Gaza Strip, on July 8, 2015. (Flash90)

The family of an Israeli man presumed held by Hamas in the Gaza Strip called on the government Wednesday to reject an emerging reconciliation agreement with Turkey that is expected to include an easing of Israel’s blockade of the Gaza Strip.

Avraham Abera Mengistu, 29, a Jew of Ethiopian descent, has been held in Gaza for nearly two years. According to his family, he suffers from mental illness and stumbled across the border into the coastal territory by accident.

Mengistu’s family is asking that the government demand as a condition for signing the agreement that Turkey obtain a clear sign of life and other information about his fate.

Hamas on Wednesday said Turkey had dropped its key demand for rehabilitating ties with Israel — an end to its blockade of Gaza.

Mengistu’s brother Ilan appealed to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu directly.

Avraham Mengistu, undated. (Courtesy of the Mengistu family via AP)
Avraham Mengistu, undated. (Courtesy of the Mengistu family via AP)

“My brother is sick, mentally ill, held in defiance of all international treaties by the Hamas organization,” he said Wednesday. “Abera is still alive. He is my brother, and the brother of each and every one of us. Did we forget him? Mr. Prime Minister, help my captive brother.”

While the blockade of Gaza will remain in place, “we understand that the emerging deal with Turkey includes many relief measures and agreements related to the Hamas organization,” said Yoel Marshak, who leads the campaign to free Mengistu.

“It’s inconceivable that in the long list of agreements [between Ankara and Jerusalem], this Jew, this Israeli held captive by a murderous terror organization, will be forgotten.”

An activist with a T-shirt for Avraham Mengistu, who is currently believed to be held by Hamas in Gaza, outside his family’s home in Ashkelon, July 9, 2015. (Twitter)
An activist with a T-shirt for Avraham Mengistu, who is currently believed to be held by Hamas in Gaza, outside his family’s home in Ashkelon, July 9, 2015. (Twitter)

Netanyahu “has the power to demand from Turkey that it pressure Hamas and bring an end to this sad episode,” he added.

Israel’s Defense Ministry has determined that Mengistu was scooped up by Hamas after illegally crossing the border, but the Islamist movement governing Gaza has provided no information about his whereabouts or condition. Still, its officials have taunted Israel, saying the Jewish state doesn’t care about Mengistu’s fate due to his Ethiopian heritage.

In February, Mengistu’s family, including father Ayaline and mother Agurnesh, traveled to Geneva to ask for help from international organizations.

“We are kept in the dark,” his brother Gashao, 30, told AFP during the visit.

The family lives in the southern city of Ashkelon, not far from the Gaza border.

“When Hamas is asking for humanitarian assistance, and contributions to the people in Gaza, then the international community should tell them: don’t expect us to assist you when you are violating the same rights of the other side,” Gashao said.

“We are talking about an innocent civilian. He’s not a soldier. He was never a soldier,” he said.

Avraham Mengistu was hospitalized several times for mental illness and was exempted from IDF military service.

A second Israeli citizen is also being held by Hamas, a Bedouin man who also apparently also crossed the border of his own volition. His name has not been cleared for publication.

AFP contributed to this report.

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