Israel's hostage negotiator: Avera Mengistu crossed to Gaza previously

Yaron Blum claimed that Hamas hostages Mengistu and Hisham al-Sayed had crossed the border several times and had been returned to Israel, but he was forced to apologize regarding Mengistu.

Mengistu and al-Sayed (photo credit: COURTESY OF THE FAMILY,FACEBOOK)
Mengistu and al-Sayed
Israeli citizen and Hamas hostage Avera Mengistu had crossed the Gaza border and been returned to Israel before the time he was kidnapped, the Israeli government's coordinator for prisoners and missing persons, Yaron Blum, said on Sunday morning.
During an interview with Reshet Bet, Blum claimed that Hamas hostages Avera Mengistu and Hisham al-Sayed had in fact crossed the border several times and had been returned to Israel in the past.
"In our estimation, both are alive," said Blum, "We are doing everything we can to release them. This was not the first time they crossed the border toward the Gaza Strip. They [Hamas] then cynically chose to leave them in violation of all international laws. They hold sick citizens, and we make every effort to release them. "
The Mengistu family said in response that Blum had made "abusive and factually incorrect statements. The family expects Mr. Blum to immediately correct his remarks and apologize."
After the family's reaction, Blum apologized for the remarks and said that he had made a mistake and meant that only al-Sayed had crossed the border before.
Mengistu and al-Sayed crossed into Gaza after 2014's Operation Protective Edge. Both are believed to still be alive.
Blum spoke shortly after Leah Goldin, the mother of kidnapped soldier Lt. Hadar Goldin, spoke on 103 FM and accused the government of double standards after the return of terrorist Amiad Khalil Ibrahim to Gaza in violation of a January 2017 Security Cabinet ruling.
Responding to accusations that Blum is lying to the families of Hamas' hostages, he replied: "I do not intend to confront families, I understand their pain. The Goldin family received detailed answers. I regret her statements."
In reponse to Goldin's comments, Blum also added that, "We are working on several negotiating channels with Hamas. There is progress in this direction. There is more than one channel open to working on a deal."
He said that, "The gaps are very wide between their many demands and for what Israel is willing to give. But we can definitely say that we are making progress in this direction... Unfortunately, Hamas does not yet understand that something has also changed in the Israeli public, and I believe that the [Gilad] Shalit deal will not be repeated."
Lt. Hadar Goldin was killed during Operation Protective Edge in a Hamas attack on August 1, 2014, when he was 23 years old. Hamas similarly holds the body of St.-Sgt. Oron Shaul, then 20, who was killed on July 20 that year, when an armored personnel carrier he was traveling in was hit.