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Hamas authorities must immediately release Israeli civilians they are holding hostage

Protest for Avraham Mengistu Israel, 17 Aug. 2015. Photo by Yotam Ronen, Activestills
Protest for Avraham Mengistu Israel, 17 Aug. 2015. Photo by Yotam Ronen, Activestills

According to media reports, the Hamas authorities in Gaza are holding at least two Israeli civilians hostage, to be used as bargaining chips in negotiations for the release of Hamas prisoners.

June 3, 2017 marked 1000 days since Avera Mengistu, an Israeli civilian from the southern city of Ashkelon, crossed the border into the Gaza Strip on 7 September 2014. Another Israeli civilian, Hashem a-Sayed, from Hura, crossed the border into Gaza on 20 April 2015. Both men reportedly have mental health conditions. Hamas has unofficially admitted to the media it was holding them as leverage for the release of Hamas members imprisoned in Israel. Statements by Hamas officials indicate they are treating the two as though they were soldiers, although there is no basis for doing so. A third Israeli civilian, Jum’ah Abu Ghanimah, crossed the border into Gaza about eighteen months ago and Hamas may be holding him as well.

It is not known where these Israeli civilians are being held and no one has been permitted to visit or communicate with them. Holding people by force to be used as bargaining chips is immoral and unlawful.

Hamas authorities must immediately and unconditionally release the Israeli civilians it is holding, and pending such release, must treat them humanely and allow the ICRC (International Committee of the Red Cross) to visit them.

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