Lapid, Herzog raised issue of Israeli captives in Gaza with Biden

The weight of the US could significantly influence the development and trajectory of the negotiations, said President Isaac Herzog.

US President Joe Biden and Prime Minister Yair Lapid meet on the second day of Biden's visit (photo credit: KOBI GIDEON/GPO)
US President Joe Biden and Prime Minister Yair Lapid meet on the second day of Biden's visit
(photo credit: KOBI GIDEON/GPO)

The issue of the four Israeli prisoners being held by Hamas in the Gaza Strip was raised by Prime Minister Yair Lapid when he spoke with US President Joe Biden on Thursday, KAN reported. 

The weight of the US could significantly influence the development and trajectory of the negotiations, President Isaac Herzog emphasized during the meeting, according to KAN. 

What's the background?

Just two weeks ago, ahead of Biden's visit, Hamas released an urgent warning of the deteriorating health of one of the Israelis still in Gaza, releasing a video hours later to back up the announcement. 

Hamas is understood to be holding captive two Israeli civilians, both of whom suffer from mental illness. It is believed that as a result of this illness, they crossed into Gaza.

Israelis Hadar Goldin, Oron Shaul, Avera Mengistu and Hisham Al-Sayed being held by Hamas in Gaza (credit: COURTESY OF THE FAMILY/FACEBOOK)Israelis Hadar Goldin, Oron Shaul, Avera Mengistu and Hisham Al-Sayed being held by Hamas in Gaza (credit: COURTESY OF THE FAMILY/FACEBOOK)

Ashkelon resident Avera Mengistu, originally from Ethiopia, has been held captive since he entered Gaza in September 2014. Hisham al-Sayed, from the Bedouin town of al-Hura in the Negev, entered Gaza in April 2015.

Separately, Hamas is also believed to be holding the remains of two soldiers killed in the 2014 Gaza war: Lt. Hadar Goldin and Sgt. Oron Shaul.

Can an Israeli civilian help?

A day later, Hamas said it would allow an Israeli left-wing activist, Yoel Marshak, to visit the Strip. At the time, he was still waiting for permission from Israel. 

Marshak had said that he wanted to try to use his connections there to help free the hostages. Hamas had granted him a three-day visit with a security guarantee, three months ago.

Tovah Lazaroff contributed to this report.