Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu visited the family of one of the two Israeli citizens held captive in Gaza and reiterated his pledge to bring them home safely.
“We face a very cruel and cynical enemy that denies the most basic humanitarian duty of returning innocent civilians home to their country,” Netanyahu said at the home of Avraham Mengistu in Ashkelon. “We will not relent and will do everything necessary to bring these citizens home.”
According to COGAT, the defense body that handles civilian issues with the Palestinians, Mengistu disappeared after he “independently” crossed the border fence and entered Gaza on Sept. 7. Israeli media reported he had been distraught at the time of his disappearance.
Mengistu’s family is from Ethiopa, and with charges of discrimination and police brutality against Ethiopian Israelis the subject of angry demonstrations in recent weeks, the case has been complicated by the ethnic issue.
On Thursday night, Israeli media broadcast a recording of government official Lior Lotan, a Netanyahu negotiator, chastising the Mengistu family for pressing Netanyahu for answers on the case. Lotan apologized publicly on Friday.
Mengistu’s uncle, Tzachi Malasa, told Army Radio that he feels his family is being treated badly “because he’s black,” referring to his nephew.
Israeli officials have in the past said that publicity surrounding cases of missing Israelis makes the process of bringing captives home longer and tougher.
The second captive is a Bedouin whose identity is still under a gag order. On Friday, the man identified as a relative of the missing Bedouin told Israel Radio that “nobody is talking to us, this isn’t nice.”
Another man, only identified by his first name Khaid and said to be someone who knows the Bedouin man well, told Army Radio that the Bedouin had gone missing several times before in Gaza but had been sent back.
Meanwhile, Hamas said that it would provide information about the two missing Israelis only if Palestinians who were rearrested after being released in the Shalit prisoner swap were freed.
“If Israel makes a gesture of goodwill and releases those arrested again after they were released in the Shalit deal, Hamas would also make a gesture of goodwill,” and would reveal details on possible prisoners it holds captive, Sheikh Hassan Yousef, a senior Hamas official, told Israel Radio.