Palestinians militants rally in Gaza City.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Hamas released Avera Mengistu and thinks he left Gaza, Jerusalem Post columnist Gershon Baskin said Thursday. It was cleared for publication on Thursday that Mengistu crossed over the border into Gaza on September 8, 2014, and Israel contends that he is in Hamas captivity.
Baskin was involved in back-channel negotiations with Hamas for the 2011 release of captive soldier Gilad Schalit, and remains in contact with officials in the terrorist organization.
Baskin recounted that roughly six months ago, Ethiopian-Israeli activists told him about Mengistu’s disappearance and asked him to use his contacts to find out about his situation.
“Hamas told me that [Mengistu] crossed into Gaza, was arrested and then interrogated by the police and the military wing,” he said. “They determined that he was not mentally stable, and decided to return him to Israel. He refused to go back to Israel and was released in Gaza.”
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Hamas sources told Baskin that they did not keep track of Mengistu and they believe he went to Sinai via a tunnel and have no knowledge of where he is, as opposed to the Beduin Israeli, whom Hamas says they are holding captive.
The Hamas political level asked the Qassam Brigades and police to report on Mengistu’s whereabouts, which Baskin said indicated that someone thought the Israeli could have been a bargaining chip, but all they know is that he is not in Gaza anymore.
Baskin said he calls his Hamas contacts almost every week and always gets the same answer.
As for Israeli officials saying that Hamas is lying, Baskin said: “I don’t know the truth, I just believe that if Hamas was holding on to him, they wouldn’t deny it. They would use him as a bargaining chip.”