Netanyahu visits family of Ethiopian-Israeli missing in Gaza


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

In reporting on Friday’s meeting in Ashkelon with the family of Avera Mengistu, Netanyahu told the Cabinet on Sunday morning, “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 in April and has not returned.

“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.

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

Mengistu, 28, 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 late last week.

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

It is not the first time that 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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