Hamas released its first video of Israeli Avera Mengistu, held hostage in Gaza for close to eight years, on the same day new IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Herzi Halevi was sworn into office.
חמאס פרסם סרטון של אברה מנגיסטו מהשבי לכאורה pic.twitter.com/MmpZK20rmr— וואלה! (@WallaNews) January 16, 2023
The video shows a man believed to be Mengistu, wearing a blue button-down shirt and speaking Hebrew.
“I am the prisoner Avera Mengistu. How long will I be here?” he asked in a video published by Hamas’s “military wing,” the Izzadin al-Qassam Brigades.
"I am the prisoner Avera Mengistu. How long will I be here?"Avera Mengistu
The video with a written message from the brigades emphasized that the release of Mengistu and others was “the failure of outgoing chief of staff [Aviv] Kohavi and his lies to the people and government with imaginary and delusional achievements.”
The name Kohavi was put in quotation marks.
“The incoming Chief of Staff Halevi should prepare himself to bear the burden of this failure and its consequences,” the video showed in writing.
An image of Kohavi was displayed toward the end of the video, with a quote superimposed over it stating that “I am very sorry that I wasn’t able to solve the issue of returning the soldiers during my time [as chief of staff].”
There was nothing in the brief footage of Mengistu speaking or in the rest of the video that could date it, so there is no way to verify when during the last eight years it was filmed.
The Prime Minister’s Office said the “State of Israel invests all its resources and efforts to return its missing sons held captive to their home.”
Does the Hamas video actually show Avera Mengistu?
Mengistu’s brother Ilan told Channel 12 that the video appeared to show his brother, although initially the family had been uncertain.
“We know that my brother entered Gaza and the security forces know this and the time has come that the government returns an innocent citizen.”Ilan Mengistu
“We know that my brother entered Gaza and the security forces know this – and the time has come that the government returns an innocent citizen,” Ilan said.
Who else is Hamas holding captive?
Along with Mengistu, Hamas is also holding captive Hisham al-Sayed, who entered Gaza in 2015. It released its first video of Sayed last year, explaining that he was in critical health. No news of his whereabouts has been released since.
Both men are believed to suffer from a psychological illness, which caused them to wander into Gaza.
In addition to Mengistu and Sayed, Hamas is believed to be holding the bodies of two soldiers killed during the 2014 Gaza war, Hadar Goldin and Oron Shaul.
Efforts to negotiate their release are ongoing, although indirect talks brokered by Egypt have not borne fruit. A campaign for the release of all four men led by the Goldin family has never gained steam, either internationally or domestically.