Defense minister rules out 'deal' with Hamas for return of Israelis in Gaza

Ya'alon says Israel has covertly tried to secure the release of the two Israelis on humanitarian grounds in recent months.

Avera Mengistu (photo credit: Courtesy)
Avera Mengistu
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon ruled out on Monday any possibility of a prisoner swap deal with Hamas for the return of two Israelis who entered the Gaza Strip of their own accord over the past year, and called on the Gazan regime to release them.
“Of course we are not talking about a deal. A deal is not on the agenda and we demand that Hamas returns them to us without conditions,” Ya’alon said, speaking at a conference held by the Israel Democracy Institute and Makor Rishon.
Avera Mengistu"a family talks to press
Ya’alon said both Israelis currently being held by Hamas suffered from mental health issues, and that Israel has attempted to covertly secure their release on humanitarian grounds in recent months.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said last week that Israel viewed Hamas as responsible for the safety of 26-year old Avera Mengistu and a Beduin Israeli who are both missing in Gaza.
State Comptroller Joseph Shapira was asked Friday to investigate why Netanyahu did not inform the security cabinet or Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee that there were two Israelis missing in the Gaza Strip for months.
The Knesset will vote on whether to form a parliamentary commission of inquiry on Wednesday to investigate the disappearance of the two Israelis.
MK Ilan Gilon (Meretz), who proposed that the committee be formed, said that “for 10 whole months, the Israeli government hid information from the family and the public, even when it was clear that the information was disseminated on the Internet and in other ways, and that its publication did not endanger the two in Gaza.”
“If that’s not bad enough,” Gilon added, “the government failed in providing relief to the Mengistu family, a broken family that was besides itself since this happened.”
The Meretz MK accused Netanyahu of ignoring the Mengistu family until the disappearance was made public, and criticized him for not bringing the issue before the Security Cabinet or the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee’s confidential subcommittees.