IDF vehicle drives along Gaza border fence [file].
(photo credit: REUTERS)
A senior Hamas figure on Friday said that the Islamist organization has not been involved with any negotiations concerning two Israeli citizens said to be currently held captive in Gaza, Maan news reported Friday.
"Israel must pay for everything," said Hamas official Ismail Radwan, who did not confirm the presence of the two Israeli nationals in Gaza, but who claimed that his organization would only broach the subject if Jerusalem first agrees to release Palestinians who have been rearrested in previous prisoner swaps.
Radwan referred to 73 Hamas linked militants released as part of the 2011 Gilad Shalit deal, who have been taken back into Israeli custody since.
On Thursday, a gag-order over the disappearances of the two men was lifted, revealing that they both had histories of mental illness, and that they were believed to have crossed into the Gaza strip last year.
In response, Hamas issued a statement explaining that they had released one of the men, Avraham Mengistu, after interrogating him, a claim that the defense establishment has rejected as an attempt by Hamas to dodge responsibility for the man’s welfare.
On September 7, 2014, Mengistu, 29, from Ashkelon, crossed into the northern Gaza Strip, climbing over the barrier near the Mediterranean Coast. Soldiers arriving on the scene called on Mengistu to make his way back towards Israeli territory, yet Mengistu apparently ignored them and continued moving into the Hamas-run enclave.
The second incident, which occurred separately, involved an unidentified Beduin man whose family suggested had crossed into Gaza before.
"He crossed the border once to Jordan, once to Egypt and once to Gaza - in February 2010 - and in all three cases he was returned to the family. The fourth time he must have entered Gaza again and didn't return."
"I hope that he is in Gaza again and that he will come back to us in peace," the relative added. "He is mentally ill and this is not the first time he's gone missing."