Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met Wednesday with the family of an Israeli civilian held captive by the Hamas terror group in the Gaza Strip and reportedly told them of new “opportunities” in the ongoing efforts have him released.
The meeting with the family of Avraham Mengistu was also attended by Yaron Blum, who coordinates efforts to return Israelis held by Hamas, the Prime Minister’s Office said in a statement.
Netanyahu presented the family with details of the “diplomatic and covert” efforts being made to return Mengistu. The talks were within the framework of the regular contact maintained by the prime minister with the families of Israelis in Hamas captivity, the statement said.
Mengistu’s brother, Ilan Mengistu, told Hadashot TV news after the meeting, “They updated us on new things that are developing. The government has a very good feeling that there are opportunities.”
Two Israeli civilians and two killed soldiers are held by Hamas. During the 2014 Gaza war, Hamas terrorists captured the remains of IDF soldiers Oron Shaul and Hadar Goldin. In the following year, two apparently mentally ill Israeli civilians, Mengistu and Hisham al-Sayed, on separate occasions entered the Gaza Strip of their own volition and were taken captive by Hamas.
Netanyahu last met with the Goldin and Shaul families on April 9.
The prime minister has had a stormy relationship with the missing Israelis’ families, who have accused the government of not doing enough to bring their loved ones home.
Earlier this month Mengistu’s family launched a tent protest outside the Prime Minister’s Residence in Jerusalem, calling on the government to bring back him from Hamas captivity. In March, State Comptroller Yosef Shapira asked Netanyahu to respond to claims by the Goldins about efforts to return their son’s body.
Israel has called for the civilians and slain soldiers to be returned, but Hamas has insisted that Israel release many convicted terrorists from prison before negotiations can even begin, something that Israel has refused to do.
Netanyahu’s meeting with the Mengistu family came as the body of a Hamas rocket and drone expert, who was gunned down over the weekend in Malaysia, was due to arrive in the Gaza Strip via Egypt for burial.
Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman said Sunday that Israel had asked the Egyptian government not to allow the body of Fadi al-Batsh to be returned to his family in Gaza until Hamas returns to Israel the bodies of the two IDF soldiers and the Israeli citizens it is holding in the enclave.
Batsh, 35, was shot dead early Saturday while on his way to prayers in Kuala Lumpur. Hamas, which claimed him as a member of its military wing, blamed the Mossad spy agency for his killing and threatened revenge.
Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.
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