The mother of an Israeli civilian believed to have been held captive by Hamas in the Gaza Strip for the past five years said Sunday that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is “doing nothing” to bring her son home.
In September 2014, Avera Avraham Mengistu, whose family has said he suffers from a mental illness, crossed into northern Gaza from the beach at Zikim. After he entered the coastal enclave, the terror group was thought to have arrested him.
Ahead of a planned event Sunday in Tel Aviv to mark half a decade since his disappearance, Mengistu’s mother spoke with Army Radio about her disappointment with government efforts to release her son.
Agarnesh Mengistu told the station that whereas in the past when she met with Netanyahu about her son’s captivity she would plead with the prime minister to seek his return, “Now I have nothing to say.”
Mengistu, an immigrant from Ethiopia whose remarks were translated by the radio station as she doesn’t speak Hebrew, said she recently spoke with Netanyahu when she was invited by him to meet with visiting Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, who was in Israel last week.
She said Netanyahu seemed “afraid of me, and didn’t know what to say” and that their conversation was short.
“Five years my son is lost and Netanyahu is doing nothing,” Mengistu said. “Once we loved him like a father, but he is doing nothing. I cry all the time but there is nothing to be done.”
Mengistu said she was eager to meet with Ahmed because she no longer has faith in Netanyahu.
The Ethiopian prime minister promised to do what he could to help, she said.
Avera Mengistu’s family members and supporters were planning to hold an event in the Tel Aviv Museum forecourt Sunday evening to mark five years since he entered Gaza, on September 7, 2014.
His brother, Ilan Mengistu, told Army Radio it has been “five years of longing and worrying about his situation.”
In addition to Mengistu, Hamas is also believed to be holding captive another Israeli civilian — Hisham al-Sayed, a Bedouin Israeli man thought held in Gaza after he crossed the border and whose family say suffers from a mental illness — and the bodies of two Israeli soldiers, Hadar Goldin and Oron Shaul, killed in the 2014 Gaza war.
Israeli officials say they are working to secure the release of Mengistu and al-Sayed.
The bereaved parents of the soldiers have also expressed repeated frustration with Netanyahu and his government’s efforts to negotiate the return of their sons.
Last month Shaul’s mother, Zehava, said “The prime minister is not interested in returning my son,” during a protest outside Netanyahu’s residence in Jerusalem.
In August Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas promised that he would make an effort to secure Mengistu’s release, MK Issawi Frej said at the time.
Frej said Abbas made the pledge when he and fellow Democratic Camp candidate Noa Rothman met the PA president at his office in Ramallah.
Asked whether Abbas said he would intervene to secure the release of the other Israeli civilian and the remains of the soldiers believed to be held by Hamas, Frej said the PA president solely offered to help to bring Mengistu back to Israel.
“He understands that the Mengistu case is a humanitarian one,” he said.
Abbas’s Fatah faction and the Hamas terror group have been at loggerheads since the latter ousted the Fatah-dominated PA from Gaza in 2007.