Rally marks three years since disappearance of Ethiopian-Israeli man into Gaza


JERUSALEM (JTA) — About 100 people attended a rally in support of the family of an Ethiopian-Israeli man held by Hamas in the Gaza Strip to mark three years since his disappearance.

The demonstrators joined the family of Avraham Abera Mengistu on Sunday night at Tel Aviv’s Habima Square.

Mengistu, 30, of Ashkelon, has not been heard from since September 2014, when he is believed to have voluntarily climbed over the security fence between Israel and Gaza. He suffers from mental illness and was exempt from serving in Israel’s military.

Mengistu’s parents met last week in Israel with U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres and called for information about their son’s fate.

In June, the Israeli army turned over to the family a security camera video showing Mengistu crossing over into Gaza.

Hamas has admitted that it holds Mengistu, as well as a Bedouin-Israeli man who also is said to be mentally ill who crossed into Gaza, and a third Israeli who entered Gaza voluntarily. Hamas also holds the remains of two Israeli soldiers, Lt. Hadar Goldin and Sgt. Oron Shaul, both killed during Operation Protective Edge in 2014.

Mengistu immigrated with his family to Israel in 1991 when he was 5 years old.

Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman said last week that Israel must not repeat the “mistake” of the 2011 Gilad Shalit deal, in which it released more than 1,000 Palestinian security prisoners in exchange for the return of its soldier from Hamas. He made the comments following the resignation of Lior Lotan, who was overseeing Israeli efforts to retrieve the remains of Goldin and Shaul and the three Israelis, who are believed to be alive.

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