Family of Ethiopian-Israeli believed held by Hamas rallies for his release

Julie Wiener

(JTA) — The family of an Ethiopian Israeli believed to be imprisoned in Gaza by Hamas rallied on his behalf outside an Israeli prison where Palestinian prisoners are held.

The rally Monday outside the Hadarim Detention Center was the first on behalf of Avera Mengistu, 29, whose family says he is mentally ill. Approximately two dozen demonstrators demanded that Hamas release Mengistu, who crossed the border into Gaza in September by climbing over a barrier. His disappearance was not made public until July, when a court-imposed gag order was lifted. He is one of two Israeli civilians believed to be held by Hamas. The other, a Bedouin, has not been publicly identified.

The rally was deliberately held on a Monday, the day that relatives of Palestinian prisoners are allowed to visit. Activists held signs in Hebrew and Arabic demanding the Palestinians send a message to Hamas to release Mengistu, The Jerusalem Post reported.

Speaking to the families of Palestinian security prisoners in Israel, Mengistu’s brother Ilan said that “while you are visiting your loved ones in Israel, Avera Mengistu, an innocent 29-year-old civilian, is being held in Gaza. Despite the fact that he is not well and was never a soldier, Hamas continues to keep him captive and refuses to release him or give any information on his whereabouts.”

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Members of the Mengistu family said hundreds of supporters had sought to join the protest at the prison, but the police had limited the crowd to 26 demonstrators, according to Haaretz.

Hamas has provided no information about the condition of Mengistu or the Bedouin man, nor has it said it is holding them.

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