Police detain Israeli man said planning to cross into Gaza

Police detain Israeli man said planning to cross into Gaza

Suspect, who reportedly suffers from mental health issues, told his mother he was going to enter the Strip, police say

Judah Ari Gross is The Times of Israel's military correspondent.

View of the security fence surrounding the Gaza Strip from Israel. (Doron Horowitz/Flash90)
View of the security fence surrounding the Gaza Strip from Israel. (Doron Horowitz/Flash90)

A young Israeli man was detained north of the Gaza Strip on Sunday afternoon after telling his mother he planned to cross the security fence and enter the Palestinian enclave, police said.

The man, who reportedly suffers from psychological issues, was picked up in the community of Netiv Ha’asara, just north of Gaza.

He was taken to a nearby police station for questioning, a police spokesperson said.

The incident occurred around the fifth anniversary of Ethiopian-Israeli Avera Mengistu crossing into the Gaza Strip from Israel. Mengistu has been held captive by the Hamas terror group ever since.

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

On September 7, 2014, Mengistu, whose family has said also 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 to 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.”

(From L-R) Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, Hamas captive Avera Mengistu’s mother Agarnesh and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem on September 1, 2019. (Amos Ben Gershom/PMO)

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 the prime minister 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.”

A composite photo of IDF soldiers Oron Shaul, left, and Hadar Goldin, right.

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.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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