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Family of Israeli held by Hamas pleads for UN envoy help

Ilan shared a positive outlook with i24NEWS upon his visit to the US, hoping for wider international support

The family of Avera Mengistu, an Israeli civilian held captive by the Hamas Islamist group in the Gaza Strip, appealed to the United Nations on Monday alongside Israel’s Ambassador Danny Danon, in a bid for the international community’s assistance with their ongoing struggle for his return.

“The Hamas terrorist organization in Gaza is toying with the life of a mentally disabled civilian”, said Avera’s brother Ilan in his plea to the world. “They are playing a cynical and cruel game with the life of a man who has never harmed a soul.”

Standing shoulder-to-shoulder beside his despondent mother, Ilan continued, “she [his mother] deserves to know the fate of her son...for three years we have had no information about him.” The Mengistu family also met with US special envoy to the Middle East Jason Greenblatt as well as a number of Jewish organisations in their appeal.

Israel’s Permanent Representative to the UN, Danon said that the family was entitled to answers.

“The terrorists of Hamas have refused to even provide a sign of life to these suffering families,” Danon stated. “All those who demand an end to the humanitarian plight for the residents of Gaza must also demand the immediate release of all Israeli’s held by Hamas.”

In an exclusive interview with i24NEWS, Avera’s brother Ilan explained that they brought their plea to the United States with hopes that American politicians, international dignitaries, and Jewish leaders would help bring Avera back home.

“We think that the United Nations and the international community need to help bring him home. This is a humanitarian situation of utmost importance, and they need to do everything to bring him home.”  

Avera, an 30 year-old of Ethiopian descent from Ashkelon, has been held captive by Hamas in Gaza for over 1,000 days since he disappeared in September 2014 after he scaled the fence close to the border.

“It is sad to see that there are people blaming a person who went through a mental breakdown,” said Ilan in an effort to garner public support for his family. “We all know that a person under emotional distress is unaware of his actions and the dangers around him. I don’t think that you should think twice before helping a disabled person. This is my nature. And this is how my family brought me up--that you should reach out to every suffering person.”  

Hamas is believed to be holding captive at least two Israelis, Avraham (Avera) Mengistu and Hisham Al-Sayeed, who entered Hamas-controlled Gaza during periods of poor mental health in 2014 and 2015 respectively. A third Israeli, Jumma Abu Ghanima, has not been heard from since he was spotted entering the blockaded enclave in July 2016.

Ilan shared a positive outlook with i24NEWS upon his visit to the US, perhaps looking for a push to negotiate a deal with Hamas, bringing to mind the one that brought home Gilad Shalit, the Israel soldier who was held captive in Gaza for over five years.

“In the United States, they do not ask why should we help. They showed their empathy right away. Everyone understood that it’s a humanitarian issue. We understood that we reached a right address here. These people have both influence and a good heart, and they can help bring back my brother home.”   

Amid the calls for the release of hostages, Danon also accused Hamas of holding the Palestinians hostage. In wider call to the international community regarding the ongoing humanitarian situation in Gaza, he said that “instead of providing education and healthcare” Hamas are, “digging terror tunnels and building rockets, while denying their people the chance for a good life.”

In the closing remarks, Ilan Mengistu urged, “the UN to put the full weight of its authority to press for the release of [his] brother.”

“I have a brother, he is helpless and he needs your help, the world's help...and you can help him”, he ended.


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