The IDF on Saturday handed over to the family of missing Israeli national Avraham "Avera" Mengistu a video recording of the September 2014 incident in which he crossed into Gaza, where he has been missing ever since. Mengistu, a 30-year-old Israeli of Ethiopian decent from Asheklon, has been thought to be in Hamas captivity since he scaled the border fence into the the Palestinian enclave through Zikim beach nearly three years ago. Soldiers who were summoned to the scene called on Mengistu to return to Israel, but he ignored them and continued into the Hamas-run enclave, according to senior Israeli officials last year. The Mengistu family was first shown the recording of Avraham voluntarily traversing into Gaza during a briefing by then commander of the IDF's Gaza division (the 143rd Division) Brig.-Gen. Itay Virov some three months after the border crossing. In January of 2017, the Mengistu family petitioned for the military to provide them with the tape of the event. IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen Gadi Eisenkot decided to approve the request and the video was delivered to the family by representatives from the Defense Ministry and IDF Intelligence Unit on Saturday night.In light of the development, the IDF said that it would "continue to work tirelessly to return those held captive and missing persons to their families." After receiving the film of her son, Mengistu's mother, Agernash, said: "I would have preferred to see footage of my son Avraham Mengistu returning home.""My son Avera struggles with mental health disabilities and there is a daily concern for his life," she added. "The delivery of the recording does not exempt the state of its responsibility to operate to return my son to his country."The family was reviewing the film and was subsequently due to release a statement to the press at a later time.
The Mengistu family has appealed for help from the state and the international community to return their son, along with the remains of IDF soldiers Hadar Goldin and Oron Shaul killed in action in the 2014 Operation Protective Edge, and a fourth Israeli missing in Gaza.In May, Human Rights Watch called on Hamas to release Mengistu along with Israeli-Beduin nationals Hisham al-Sayed, 29, and Jumaa Abu Ghanima, 19, who are all believed to be forcibly held in Gaza. Are three are said to suffer from mental illness.Photographs and technological evidence show that Sayed crossed into April 2015. According to his family, Abu Ghanima crossed into Gaza in July 2016, but no evidence from Israel or Hamas has corroborated that account, HRW said.Hamas has insisted that it will not divulge any information about the missing men until Israel releases 54 of its members imprisoned in Israeli jails, HRW said. Those prisoners were released as part of the 2011 deal between Israel and Hamas to free captive IDF soldier Gilad Schalit, but were again arrested by the IDF in 2014. Tovah Lazaroff contributed to this report.
Brother of missing Israeli Avraham Mengistu calls for government to bring him back from Gaza (July 9, 2015)