Physicians for Human Rights–Israel (PHR) on Wednesday revealed that at the end of 2016, at the request of Avera Mengistu’s family and on its behalf, it delivered a video and medical documents about Avera’s mental state to Hamas.
Avraham “Avera” Mengistu is an Israeli citizen who crossed into the Gaza Strip on September 7, 2014. He was detained and interrogated by Hamas, and has been missing since. His family has stated that he is mentally unstable and had been admitted to a mental hospital in the past. He had been treated with medication, which he stopped taking a few weeks before his crossing.
The video and documents were transferred by one of PHR’s medical delegations, which has been regularly visiting the Gaza Strip for more than a decade to carry out humanitarian medical activities.
According to information provided by the health system in Gaza to PHR-Israel, the video and documents reached the relevant entities that hold Avera Mengistu in the Gaza Strip, including Mengistu himself. However, PHR-Israel has no information confirming that the video did indeed reach the hostage.
In the video, Mengistu’s mother and brothers appeal to Hamas’ military wing. His mother, Agumesh, says in the video: “How can it be that the hearts of the Hamas people have not been overcome? My son Avera entered by mistake because he is sick, why did Hamas not release him? For two years I have been crying day and night. I want to see him, show me my son. Why? I beg you, Hamas people – show him to me, release him to me.”
Avera’s brother, Ilan, says in the video: “We, the family, have been in pain, worry, heartbreak for more than two years. Every day I see my mother crying and saying, ‘Where is my son, Avera, whom I raised with great devotion and great difficulties in Ethiopia, and here in Israel too?’
“She asks me every day: ‘Why are they holding him? What do they have to do with him? He is not a soldier, he did not go to harm anyone, he is the child of poor and miserable people. I also have a heart. I’m also a mother. Why don’t they release him?’ And I have no response.”
Hamas also holds Hisham al-Sayed, an Israeli Bedouin who also suffers from mental issues. His family issued a public plea to Hamas for his release in April 2016.
Prof. Raphael Walden, President of PHR-Israel, issued a statement saying, “The moral and human duty is to release the Israeli citizens being held in Gaza, whose situation is known to no one. Over the past two years, we have been working quietly with our local medical contacts to ensure that an independent doctor visit Avera Mengistu to receive updated information on his condition and to promote his release. We call on Hamas to put an end to the nightmare that Avera, Hisham and their families are going through.”