Netanyahu visits family of Ethiopian Israeli missing in Gaza

Marcy Oster

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visited the home of an Ethiopian-Israeli man presumed to be held in Gaza.

Netanyahu on Friday visited the family of Avera Mengistu in Ashkelon. In reporting on the meeting to the Cabinet on Sunday morning, Netanyahu said: “We are doing everything in our ability to bring Avera back to Israel.”

He added that government officials also are in contact with the family of a second Israeli citizen, reported to be a Bedouin Israeli, who also crossed the border into Gaza.

“We expect the international community, which is constantly calling for humanitarian aid for the residents of Gaza, to intervene and demand the most simple and basic humanitarian assistance from Hamas – returning to Israel its two citizens,” Netanyahu said.

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The visit comes in the wake of accusations by the Mengistu family that Netanyahu has ignored their appeals and letters.

Mengistu is believed to have climbed last September over the security fence between Israel and Gaza. His presumed captivity — which Hamas denies – was under a gag order that was lifted late last week. Also missing is an Israel Bedouin who crossed over to Gaza in April and has not returned.

Also on Sunday, the family of a Bedouin man held in prison in Egypt for 15 years, Ouda Tarabin, complained that Netanyahu and two former prime ministers have not visited them because they are Arabs.

Tarabin is a former resident of the Bedouin city of Rahat, in Israel’s Negev Desert. He was arrested in 2000 while visiting Egypt, charged with being an Israeli spy and given a 15-year prison term.

It is not the first time Tarabin has made such an accusation. In a letter sent to Netanyahu a year ago and released to the media, Tarabin wrote: “If I were a Jew or a Druze, the government would be fighting for me and my freedom, and I wouldn’t have been sitting in an Egyptian prison for 14 years,”

Tarabin then called on the government “to act immediately to put an end to my suffering and the suffering of my family, to engage the Egyptian government, and act quickly to ensure my release.”

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