Gaza (Reuters) – Palestinian Islamist militant group Hamas released a video on Monday showing what they said was an Israeli citizen being held captive in the Gaza Strip. The unverified images of the man are the first since his capture in 2014.
The undated video shows a man identified by Hamas as Israeli civilian, Avera Mengistu, sitting in front of a blank wall and speaking for about 10 seconds, asking Israel for help. Its release seemed to be an effort to pressure Israel into making a prisoner swap.
Mengistu, who according to his family suffers from mental health issues, crossed into Gaza in 2014 and has been held in captivity since.
Mengistu’s identity was not confirmed by Israel. But his brother Ilan said the family, after eight and a half years of having no idea about his emotional or physical wellbeing, believe it is him.
“My mother is on the verge of tears. She hasn’t stopped watching the video,” he told Reuters. “Her hope, her great happiness will be seeing him home safe and sound.”
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office said in response to the video’s release: “Israel is investing all its resources and efforts to bring its captured and missing boys home.”
It did not comment on the video’s authenticity.
Hamas in its video mentions Israel’s new top general, who was officially appointed on Monday, but gave no further details on Mengistu’s condition.
Last June, Hamas distributed a separate video purporting to show a second Israeli civilian being held captive.
Israel says Hamas is holding two Israeli civilians and the remains of two of its soldiers who were killed in a 2014 Israel-Gaza war. The civilians are believed to have crossed over into Gaza willingly for unknown reasons.
In the past, Israel has engaged in prisoner swaps with Hamas, most notably in 2011, when Gilad Shalit, a soldier abducted by militants in a cross-border raid in 2006, was released in exchange for more than 1,000 Palestinians held in Israeli jails.