A man who crossed from Israel into the Gaza Strip on Friday afternoon is a former resident of the coastal enclave who entered Israel as part of a family unification process allowed by the government several years ago.
According to a senior IDF officer, a man was identified crossing the fence toward the Gaza Strip along its northern border, near Netiv Ha’asara.
IDF troops were scrambled to the scene, but by the time they arrived the man had already crossed to the other side of the fence.
According to a report in the Haaretz news website, soldiers in military observation posts identified a person likely belonging to the terror group Hamas, which rules the Strip, picking up the unnamed man. The army assessed that he was now being interrogated by the terror group.
An IDF officer told Haaretz that it did not appear to be a planned encounter and Hamas was likely not expecting the man to cross the border.
The Shin Bet security service is expected to interrogate the man’s family to try to understand why he decided to cross back into the Gaza Strip.
“The crosser was found out only a minute or two before crossing to the other side, by the time forces arrived on the scene he was already in Gaza territory,” a senior IDF official told military reporters. “The IDF has no way of preventing someone who has decided to cross into Gaza from going there.”
According to the Ynet news website, the man has been living in Israel for the past five years.
Family reunification in Israel typically involves an Israeli citizen requesting citizenship for his or her non-Israeli spouse. Most unification applications are submitted by Israeli Arabs on behalf of a Palestinian spouse living in the West Bank or the Gaza Strip.
The process of family reunification for Palestinians has been made more stringent in recent years due to concerns it was being abused by terror groups to gain access to Israel.
Hamas is believed to holding three Israelis who entered the Strip illegally in recent years.
Israeli civilians Hisham al-Sayed and Avraham Mengistu have been in Gaza since April 2015 and September 2014, respectively, after they sneaked into the blockaded Palestinian enclave. Both are thought to suffer from mental illness.
— Sari Bashi (@saribashi) May 3, 2017
A third man, Jumaa Abu Ghanima, entered Gaza in July 2016, but there is no further information on him and it is unclear if he was arrested or joined a militant group.
has not released any details on their condition or allowed rights groups to visit them.
Hamas is demanding the release of a number of its members from Israeli jails before it will publish information about the men, as well as the remains of two Israeli soldiers killed in action during the 2014 summer war between Israel and Gaza-based terror groups.
Despite never recovering the bodies of Oron Shaul and Hadar Goldin, the Israeli army has established that both were killed in separate incidents during the summer 2014 war between Israel and Hamas. It maintains that the remains were seized by the terrorist group as bargaining chips.