U.N. calls on Palestinians in Gaza to hand over Israeli nationals

Marcy Oster

JERUSALEM (JTA) — United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called on Palestinians in Gaza to provide information about two Israelis believed to be held there.

Ban on Monday also called for their prompt return to their families, the Associated Press reported.

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

The U.N. will monitor developments in the case, U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric told the AP.

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Meanwhile, Israeli media reported that Mengistu’s father has been homeless for the last ten months.

The Ashkelon municipality offered to pay for hotel bills or rent for Haili Mengistu, and said it would increase welfare payments to the family, Ynet reported.

The Mengistus made aliyah in the mid-1980s during Operation Moses, and moved first to Jerusalem and then to Ashkelon. They divorced three years ago. Haili Mengistu has been moving from relative to relative and sleeping on the streets since then.

Israel negotiated several months ago with Hamas for release of the two men, but Hamas tried to hand over an Eritrean national who had entered Gaza looking for work instead, Israel’s Channel 2 reported Monday night.

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